Leadership

The Love and Compassion that Swallows Fear

I heard someone ask Ray Comfort the other day if he stills gets scared when he witnesses to people. If you don’t know who Ray Comfort is, you will find him at Living Waters teaching people how to share the Gospel and doing a lot of that himself. After all these years you would think he’d be super comfortable sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, but he actually said he is still terrified. And then he said he has learned how to hold that terror and gave a little analogy that I wanted to share here–

If you had a pool filled with floating ice cubes and the coldest water you could imagine, you wouldn’t think about jumping in. But if a three year old fell in that pool, you wouldn’t think about it for a second. You’d just jump in and save him. There is a love and compassion that swallows fear.

That is true love, isn’t it? The kind that swallows fear?

And this isn’t just relevant to witnessing. It’s relevant to being a godly parent, being a godly leader, and encouraging Christians away from false teaching. These all take a love that will swallow that consuming fear that comes when we think about any confrontation.

What kind of fears do we fight?

There are so many but they all have one thing in common–

 

fear that people won’t like me

fear people will think I’m weird

fear that people will think I’m a fanatic

fear that people will think I’m divisive

fear that my comfortable circumstances will change

fear that someone won’t be my friend anymore

fear that people will be mean to me

fear that people will gang up on me

 

Do you see the main thing listed in these fears? Me and I. I am sure there are so many more fears but can you think of one fear you have in regards to telling others the truth about the Bible that isn’t wrapped up in you?

So this is a natural thing, isn’t it? We naturally want to live pleasant, happy, carefree lives. Of course, we don’t want to rock any boats or upset anyone because that means we have to deal with the unpleasant consequences that follow. The easiest thing to do is to just stay quiet. And so we don’t tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ–or if we do, we conveniently leave out the part about them being a sinner and needing to repent. All of that unpleasant stuff that no one wants to hear. And we don’t love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to call out sin or to mention that the author or the preacher they love so much is a false teacher.

Because our fear is bigger than our love.

You’d think–with my blog and all–that I wouldn’t struggle with this, right? I mean, let’s face it, when you do this kind of blogging there isn’t really any question of where I stand. But I still struggle with this. Somehow talking with someone one-on-one seems a lot more frightening than writing a blog post. I would imagine most bloggers and writers feel that way. In fact, you may feel that way even with social media, feeling much freer to share there (although that’s probably worth a blog post in and of itself–social media is not the place for these conversations, as a rule. If we wouldn’t say it to someone in person, we shouldn’t write it on a Facebook wall or tweet it).

Now, I must add one thing and this seems to be the perfect place to add it. “Jumping in that pool” to save someone is always the right thing to do. And because we do not know when someone is going to die, there is an urgency to witnessing that we cannot deny. However, while this isn’t really the topic of this post, I do think we need to remember to be wise. If we broach the subject of salvation or of a false teacher or of their own sin with someone and they grow angry and defensive, then we must know when to back away. We are not bulls in a china closet. We don’t just keep going, ramming Bible verses down their throats. There is a grace and love that must accompany speaking the truth.

But most of us never even get to the point where we are willing to speak the truth. To anyone. About anything. Because of that terrifying fear. But we have the power to overcome that fear. I John 4 tells us that God’s perfect love casts out that fear–

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I think we must ask this question: At what point does our fear become a sin? At what point does it move from being a natural human response to an actual sin? Anger and envy are natural human responses but we don’t give them the same pass as fear, do we? Why is that?

Of course, this is compounded greatly by the fact that we are literally becoming the great enemy of the western world more and more each day. The agenda to demonize biblical Christians is vigorous and influential and so this intensifies our fears. And there is much to fear these days. The days of freely sharing biblical truth are slipping away into the twilight.

But there is a love and compassion that swallows our fear! And if we are born again, we have access to it. Right now. Today. Why are we allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear when we should be controlled by love?

 

 

The Tactless Art of Making People Feel Small

There is a way to instantly get on someone’s bad side. This builds walls between parents and children and creates barriers between friends. It can ruin ministries and destroy relationships.

I have seen it take place between adult children and their elderly parents. And between teenagers and their bewildered parents. I have seen it take place between teacher and student, pastor and congregation member, husband and wife, and clerk and customer.

It isn’t talked about a whole lot as a sin, but it is a very real (and accepted) sin for which we need to be on guard at all times.

So what is it, you may ask?

It is the art of making people feel small. The great art of condescension, which is defined as an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain.

Have you ever been around someone who has done this to you?

How did this make you feel?

I can tell you how it makes me feel. It makes me feel unimportant and ridiculous. It makes me feel that I have no more value than a bug to be squashed on the sidewalk.

I know I have done this to others myself and I mourn over this. Do you feel the same way? Some of us are more prone to this than others.

I am especially heart-broken when I see this happen between adult children and their elderly parents. The rolling eyes, the patronizing attitude as I watch an adult child treat their parent with such disdain just fills me with sadness. Shouldn’t someone who raised us be worthy of our respect?

Now, first let me state that I have not been in the place of taking care of elderly parents yet. All four of our parents are still very independent so please know that I am not casting a pointing finger of judgement at any of you. I know there are real challenges in being a caregiver for someone who resists your care.

Rather, what I hope to do with this post is to gently encourage you to consider your communication with and attitude towards your elderly parents. And your children. Your co-workers and fellow believers and family members and friends. And clerks and bank tellers and landscapers and the people who pick up your trash.

Because there is little more to crush the spirit of another than to act like you know everything and they know nothing. Anger and frustration quickly build when someone gives the impression that they are way more important than the other person. There are few things that will as quickly create barriers between people than for one person to make another one feel stupid.

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum on this. I used to be condescending on a regular basis with my husband. It shames me to say it, but it’s true. I am thankful that he brought this to my attention and that God has worked in my heart but I am still so imperfect in this area (as well as so many others!) And, as lowly landscapers, we often feel condescension from those who would never choose a laborious job such as working with their hands and digging in the dirt. Quite thankfully, we have so many wonderful customers that make up for those that would treat us like dirt–no pun intended!! ;)

And, as is the case with all sin, the ugly root of this sin is pride. And, once again, we see clear evidence that–

Pride destroys and humility repairs

Pride builds walls and humility tears them down

Pride leads to dissension and humility leads to harmony

 

Another thing we need to keep in mind in regards to condescension is that it can be done with a big smile and sweet words. Have you ever run into one of those people that appear so sweet and kind but underneath it is hardened pride that keeps you from having any productive conversations with them? They are condescending but it is in the nicest way. In some ways this is the art of making people feel small at its finest. It can be done while still maintaining a godly and wholesome reputation.

So how do we keep ourselves from falling prey to this sin? What can we do to make sure we don’t patronize others? These are two things that I have found helpful, so I am passing them along–

1. Remember how Jesus treated others.

Jesus was never patronizing with people. We read of so many accounts he had with others–Zaccheus, the Samaritan Woman, Nicodemus, and others and condescension is never conveyed by even the slightest word or deed. Even when Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their false teaching, He demonstrated that anger in clearly communicated words and not through snide and sarcastic condescension. Jesus’s sinless example is the one we want to follow as we reflect on how we should treat others.

2. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Mark 12:31 says this: And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. How would you want someone to tell you a hard truth? How would you want your adult child to treat you if you were the elderly parent losing your ability to do things independently and your dignity right along with it? Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and really take to heart how you would want to be treated if you were them.

 

Remembering these two things will bring a big change in this area of condescension. Keeping these in mind will fill us with a special grace and thoughtfulness that will naturally yield an attitude of loving-kindness and gentleness towards others rather than an air of superiority and disdain.

So let’s discard the tactless art of making people feel small and develop the art of making people feel special! Let’s eliminate the destructive root of pride that yields a superior, patronizing disdain for others and, instead, develop godly humility that tears down barriers and builds relationships.

This is God’s will for all of us, so we know His Holy Spirit will guide and direct us as we seek to make changes. We know that this is a prayer that God will answer if we are seriously seeking to do what’s right. God will be with us all as we seek to build rather than to tear down and as we strive to make others feel important and loved rather than stupid and worthless.

 

 

 

How Do I Respond to My Enemies?

So often Christians find themselves at odd with other Christians. There will be two true believers who just do not agree. Whether it’s a disagreement over something as simple as a remodeling project at church or it’s a deeper issue of how a certain scripture passage should be interpreted, we will always find someone that we will disagree with about something.

What keeps two people who disagree with each other from being enemies? What brings true Christian unity?

Please keep in mind that this post is referring to unity between true believers and not to the “fake” unity that warmly embraces all perversions of the Gospel and even religions that don’t adhere to the Gospel at all to be unified under the broad term of “Christianity”. We know that this kind of unity is not biblical, according to Galatians 1:9–

As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

But there is something that is called true, Christian unity. This unity can only exist between brothers and sisters in Christ. This kind of unity keeps us moving toward the same goals and embracing the same purpose. This unity builds bridges instead of walls. It will fill Christians with loving concern for one another instead of filling them with grudges, resentment, and jealousy.

This sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? But it is often hard to find. Why is this?

Why does someone decide they do not like someone?

Sometimes we don’t care for someone based on a shallow, silly thing. And then there are also better reasons, based on things like biblical error or a prideful, arrogant spirit that is consistently divisive.

But we have to ask ourselves: Are any of these reasons good enough? If you were to stand before God today and tell Him your reason for not liking a certain person, would He say, “Way to go, my child. I agree with you completely.” ??

Of course we know the answer, don’t we? Because we know that God is love. We shouldn’t view anyone as an enemy, much less a brother or sister in Christ.

Romans 12:8 puts it like this–

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

We should, to the best of our ability, work at being at peace with everyone, believer and non-believer. This verse naturally brings two thoughts to my mind.

First, what if someone won’t be at unity with me?

Of course, since we know that the world will hate us (John 15:19), we know that it isn’t always possible to be at peace with those in the world. But sometimes it is a fellow Christian who refuses to forgive us. Or perhaps they just don’t like us but won’t tell us why. What then? These kinds of situations are heart-breaking and lead to feelings of helplessness as we try to navigate the back-biting, the whispering, and the cold shoulders.

I have a friend who taught me an important lesson about this very thing. Our daughters were playing soccer together and something happened to her little girl that could have started some real drama on the team. And this was her advice to her daughter, “kill them with kindness”. I heard her say that so often when her daughter would feel slighted or frustrated about something. And then, following her example, I started to say this to my kids. Yes, this is what we are called to do.

In fact, Jesus takes it even further in Matthew 5:43-44, telling us to love them, bless them, do good to them, and to pray for them!–

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 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.

This is a tall order, is it not? But there it is. Commanded by Jesus in the Holy Bible. Instead of gossiping, instead of returning the coldness, instead of resentment or anger, we love, we bless, we do good things, and we pray for them.

But we do this because it is right, not because it will necessarily change anything. Let’s go back to the beginning of Romans 12:18–

“if it is possible, as much as it depends on you”

We know from these words that Paul realized it isn’t always possible. It is part of living life as a sinner, alongside sinners, in a fallen world. Sometimes we just have to follow Jesus’s words and find contentment even when there is no resolution and no forgiveness. A hard thing, indeed. But, you know what? This is just another thing that God uses to grow us and to teach us that we must find our peace and joy in Him alone.

Second, we won’t be best friends with everyone.

Even among truly unified Christian brothers and sisters, there will be those who are “kindred spirits” and those who are not. And that’s okay. But so often special friendships between Christians are viewed with resentment or jealousy. As believers we should realize that we will be better friends with some than others. It is how God designed us. Remember David and Jonathan? If you read I Samuel 18, you will realize that their friendship was very special. Once in a while, God will bring these special Christian friends into our world. They are true treasures and, instead of feeling jealous, we should be glad for others if they have found a special friend.

If we are still longing for this type of friendship, then pray and ask God to bring you a friend. I remember as a young mom feeling the need for this type of friend and so, unbeknownst to me, my mom started praying. And within a year or so of her prayers, God led me to Deb. We realized we were kindred spirits as we sat in a group of women and chatted and, shortly after, became best friends. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer if you need a friend!

And then there are those fellow Christians in our lives who could never be a kindred spirit. In fact, some of them drive us a little crazy. We may feel guilty if we don’t appreciate a Christian brother or sister like we know we should. What then?

God made us all different and certain personalities may grate on us. We may find them hard to get along with or their mannerisms alone might irritate us. They may be boastful or arrogant.

But if we take a look at Philippians 2:1-2, we have to acknowledge that God doesn’t give us any caveat for difficult people–

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

We are to be like-minded with all Christians–as much as it depends on us. We obviously can’t control the other person.

So how do we do this? How can we be like-minded? These verses show us–we have the same love, the same accord, the same mind as our fellow Christians. This can only be done if we are diligently studying the scriptures together, submitting our desires and wills to God, joyfully obeying the commands we find there, while increasing our knowledge of God. When people are not getting along, it often goes back to this. Biblical illiteracy once again rears its ugly head in church matters.

And, along with knowing God’s Word, we find the oil that keeps things working together smoothly in Colossians 3:14–

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I Corinthians 13:4-6 gives us a description of this love that will break down barriers and bind Christians together in perfect unity–

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And I Peter 4:8 is further confirmation of this idea that love will bring unity–

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Even when we don’t particularly appreciate a fellow Christian, we can love them. We are commanded to love them. And we should thank the Lord for them, for they are helping us to grow in patience and self-control!

Enemies are just part of life. If we are going to take any stand at all on the things that matter, we will have enemies. We cannot control how they treat us, but we can control how we treat them. And let’s intentionally work at not having needless enemies. We must back away from the stuff that doesn’t matter. Will it matter in a hundred years what color carpet is used in the church? Is a slight difference in how someone interprets the book of Revelation really a cause for division? Let’s wisely and, oh so carefully, choose our battles. Most hills we choose to stand on are just not worth dying on. We don’t always have to be right. We don’t always have to have our way. So often it just doesn’t matter.

And most of all, when we find ourselves in the midst of a heated disagreement with a fellow Christian or facing a full-blown enemy, then let’s love them. Love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. If you don’t remember anything else from this post, I hope you will remember these words of Jesus.

 

A Lesson from Football

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This past Sunday was the Super Bowl. For me, it was unlike normal Super Bowls because the Eagles were there for the first time since 2004. Of course, if you follow football at all, you are aware of the falling ratings of this sport due to the disrespect displayed towards America by a handful of players at the beginning of this past season. Patriotic people (which includes many football fans) found this highly offensive and, in fact, the Super Bowl audience was at an all-time low this past Sunday. Of course, this didn’t stop Eagles’ fans from watching.

I am sure that many of you are not interested in football. And with all that went on, you may have written it off forever. Honestly, there was talk that football in this country might have been dying a slow death as we watched the mess the NFL was in just a few short months ago.

But then along came the Philadelphia Eagles. If you haven’t already heard, the Eagles are an extraordinary team that seem to have a very special bond. But what has been extra-special for me to watch is that the men who claim to be believers seem to be the real deal. I have watched interviews and I have read articles that would give evidence to this fact. In a world made up of celebrity Christians that “talk it” but don’t “walk it”, this has been incredibly refreshing. In fact, some of them meet together to study the Word (when’s the last time you heard a celebrity Christian talk about the importance of the Bible??) and they let nary an opportunity escape where they do not direct attention to Jesus Christ and give Him the glory.

It’s been an amazing thing to watch. And, being a diehard Eagles fan since I was a child, it’s been especially exciting. But, of course, while we should be thankful for the platform they have been given, they are still just human men in a really tough world. If anything, we should pray for them to stay true to God and His Word in the tempting world that is professional sports.

However, believe it or not, this isn’t why I am writing about football today. I just thought you might be interested in that little tidbit about the Eagles–if you didn’t know it already.

Actually, I heard a couple of back-stories on Sunday about the lives of the two head coaches. It’s worth writing about.

Doug Pederson, head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bill Belichick, head coach for the New England Patriots, have something in common. Would you believe that both of these men were viewed as “bad hires”? This happened to Belichick back in 2000 and to Pederson more recently (I’ll include links about this below). Thankfully, the owners of both of these teams decided to go against the tide of public opinion and hire them anyway.

And what do you know? Football history has been made by these decisions. With Bill Belichick as their coach, the Patriots have had an amazing run over the last eighteen years with multiple Super Bowl wins. And the Eagles, within two years of hiring Doug Pederson, not only made it to the Super Bowl, but actually managed to win the Super Bowl with several of their key players on the injured list, including their main quarterback! These are two amazing coaches!

So why did popular opinion roll against these two guys?

I actually have no idea. I am not really that into football. But I do think there is much to learn from their stories and the courage displayed by the owners of these two teams. You see, so often we so desperately want to be liked by everyone that we aren’t willing to go against popular opinion. And yet if you really think about it, there isn’t one person that has really made a difference in this world by siding with popular opinion. Whether we are talking football, medical break-throughs, modern-day inventions, or standing up for biblical Truth, the people who make a real difference are the ones who are brave enough to turn away from what the crowd thinks and walk in a different direction. They are the ones that will swim upstream amidst the ridicule of others.

This takes courage and confidence. It takes believing in a person or a possibility. It takes someone willing to sacrifice their short-term comfort, ease, and glory for something greater. And, as a Christian who stands up for the truth of the Bible, it takes faith and trust in God and His Word.

So the next time we are tempted to stand with the crowd, let’s stop and think. Is this actually the best thing? Even more importantly–is this what the Bible teaches? Or is this just what is popular and trendy right now? And then let’s be brave enough to stand up for the truth! If we can do this, we will make a difference–not in a temporal game on a football field–but in God’s Kingdom for eternity.

 

Doug Pederson: Read articles here and here.

Bill Belichick: Read articles here and here.

One of Our Highest Callings

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On Saturday, we attended the high school graduation of our last child. It may well be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. How can you be so filled with joy for your child and so filled with sadness for yourself? But I know it certainly is possible to be filled with such contrasting emotions at the exact same time because it is what I experienced on Saturday.

As I went through old photos to prepare for her graduation party, I was assailed by feelings of nostalgia and joy. Wonderful memories came rushing back as I stared at photos of happy babies, busy children, and posed family portraits. And while we had our share of frustrating, angry, and hopeless moments, this was not what came to mind when I poured over our precious family photos.

When our children were born, my husband and I determined that we had one priority. Temporal things–sports, academics, accolades, and awards–do not last. But their souls–we knew their souls must be our focus. We made any decisions regarding our family with this one thing in mind. Our only goal being that our children would know God and would make Him known. We prayed that they would love Him and His Word and that they would be bold and courageous as they walked with Him. Even though they are now adults, we continue to pray this same prayer for our children, experiencing great joy as we watch the Lord grow them and use them for His glory.

The funny thing is this: We did so many things wrong. We were weak when we should have been strong. We said yes when we should have said no. We caved to our own selfish desires more times than we can count. We can see it so clearly now. Hindsight is always 20-20. And, yet, God has been so faithful to our family. Far beyond anything we deserve.

And so it is with much sadness, great joy, and a keen awareness of God’s great mercies and kindnesses to our family, that I bid this stage of my life a fond adieu. I just cannot believe how quickly the time has passed and yet here I am with the last birdie in the nest about ready to fly away. As I stare at my soon-to-be empty nest, I realize that it is time to move on to the next stage of my life. I am not sure what that looks like yet, but I know God will make it clear to me, as I continue to rely on Him for direction. I do know it includes continuing a godly legacy with my grandchildren and that will, most certainly, be one of my highest priorities.

So what is the point of this post? It is to encourage you–whether you are a parent, grandparent, favorite aunt or uncle, or teacher–to make the souls of those in your care your priority. When each of these precious children reach the end of their lives, it will be only this that matters. All else will fade away as they come face to face with the One who made them. We cannot get so wrapped up in worldly pursuits that we lose sight of what really matters.

A few months ago, I just “happened” across a song that says what I am trying to say so perfectly. As I couldn’t find a video for it, I made one of my own with some old photos of our family. I have debated at great length about sharing this video, knowing that these photos won’t mean much to those of you who don’t know our family. But decided to go ahead and post it, in the hopes that these pictures may remind you of all of the good memories you have had with your own families.

As you listen to this song, I hope that you, too, will be filled with a passion for the souls of the precious children in your lives–for this may well be one of our highest callings. May we be faithful stewards of these treasured souls. The song is called Steward of Their Soul and is by a group called Seven Arrows. I hope you enjoy it–

 

 

 

The Real Description of Love

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What is love? The word “love” is tossed about freely, without much regard to its true meaning. But as I was reading I Corinthians 13 this morning, making a careful list of all that describes love in this passage, it gave me pause. Somehow evaluating each of these words individually was way more convicting than simply reading through the familiar verses.

I wasn’t actually planning on posting today, but as I wrote and pondered, I realized that perhaps some of you, too, would be challenged and convicted by these verses in a way you haven’t been before.

Love is a big word, isn’t it? And it has multiple definitions. But Paul gives us such a beautiful description of love in this chapter. Here is a breakdown of what love looks like in a Christian’s life. Read and be challenged–

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love does not envy.
  4. Love does not boast.
  5. Love is not arrogant.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love is not resentful.
  10. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.
  11. Love rejoices in the truth.
  12. Love bears all things.
  13. Love believes all things.
  14. Love hopes all things.
  15. Love endures all things.
  16. LOVE NEVER ENDS.

And then let’s not forget this–

We can do all kinds of fabulous things for the Lord. We can speak marvelous, challenging words that encourage people to grow spiritually. We can play beautiful music that leads people in worship. We can even die for Christ. But if all of these things are done without love, they are nothing. They mean nothing. We gain nothing.

Think about that–ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Imagine with me for just a moment what would happen if all people who claim the name of Christ would put this list into practice. It would literally transform marriages! Heal families! Revolutionize churches! This is a powerful, powerful list.

Unfortunately, this will never happen. But we do have the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to live these out in our own life. May we continue to strive to do this as we grow for life and seek to be like our Savior!

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (I Corinthians 13:1-8)

Have a great day! And thanks for letting me stop by your in-box on this Wednesday morning! :)

 

Life as a “Fixer”

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I felt crushed. I was only trying to help. But I had just made things worse. Have you ever done that?

Most of us find ourselves one of two personalities–there are those of us who like to fix problems. And there are those of us who like to ignore them. There are those of us not afraid of confrontation if it will make things better and there are those of us who would rather have our arm broken than deal with any kind of confrontation.

I have always been a fixer. I don’t like confrontation, but I am willing to endure it if it makes things better. This has gotten me into trouble on multiple occasions. I think a little conversation and airing out will help, just to find out that it has actually made it worse. Some people don’t want to fix things. It takes a very wise person to discern when to speak.

Thankfully, by this point in my life, I have learned a lot and am much more cautious about when and when not to say something. I am certainly not perfect, but I felt pretty good about this…

Until I became a parent to adult kids.

My method became: I would notice something, so I would mention it. Just for the record this is a bad idea. I am learning, ever so slowly (as my kids will attest) to keep my mouth shut unless I am asked for advice.

I like to give advice. And, more importantly, I like to keep my precious kids from learning hard lessons. My intentions are good. They really are. But this is not what my adult kids want nor is it what they need.

As I have been reading through the Gospels this year, I have realized that I am quite a bit like Peter. Always talking. Always trying to fix things.

When the Lord was going to wash Peter’s feet, remember how Peter exclaimed “You shall never wash my feet!” (John 13:8) or how about the time that Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to be killed? (Matthew 16:22). And, of course, we all know the time that Peter declared that he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26:35), only to deny Him three times later on in the same chapter.

I love that Peter is in the Bible as one of the Lord’s disciples. It shows me that the Lord can use those who speak too quickly. Those who are always trying to fix things. Those who are impulsive.

Going back to my kids, I have recognized that they need me to be a support and encouragement. They need me to speak kind words as they embark on their own lives. Unless I see something that is a biblical issue or has the potential of really hurting them, I need to keep my mouth shut. Of course, the opposite of this is to never speak at all to adult kids about anything. This isn’t good, either. Serious issues that could and should have been addressed lovingly by parents are often avoided and this ends up causing so much heartache, too. It is so much about balance.

This is a new and wild world I find myself in. It started when they were teens. Knowing when to speak. Knowing when not to. Always praying. Always praying.

Somehow my parents had this balance. I am trying very hard to follow their example. They were so encouraging. When we went to them for advice, they were not judgemental or critical. And, yet, there were a handful of times that they approached us about something of a concern. Because of the relationship we had with them, we soberly considered what they were saying. We were thankful they had shared with us. Through it all, they were praying for us and for the kids. We always knew this. It was like a safety net of support that we knew was there.

I hope to be the same for my kids. I hope that you are (or will be) the same for your adult kids. Our children need our love and support. They need us to pray for them (and for their kids when they come along). They need us to pray for things of eternal value–for them to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength; that they will hunger for the Word; and that they will love righteousness and hate evil. We need to be willing to speak, but only with great discernment and very rarely. Instead, we should use our words to build them up.

I hope I can do this as well as my parents did. I really do. I am blessed to have had such a good example. I know that many of you do not. I am not there yet, but at least I know where I want to be and that is always the first step, is it not?

While I know some of you are parenting adult kids, many of you are not. You probably wonder what to even take from this post (if you are even still reading). I hope that what you will take is that it takes great wisdom to know when and when not to speak. And it takes courage to speak when we should. How we respond will affect us as parents, as children, as siblings, as co-workers, and as church leaders. Whether we are a fixer or an ignorer, let’s endeavor to grow in this area.

 

Are You Planting Seeds or Building Walls?

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So often those of us who are passionate about the truth can be abrasive. We don’t mean to be. We don’t want to be. But we are just so thrilled to know the truth, we are sure the person we are talking to will be thrilled, too! When they aren’t thrilled–or worse yet, take the opposing viewpoint– we can grow frustrated, angry, and defensive. I hope to show you why this is never a good idea as we look at four different types of people with whom we may have the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word.

But before we talk about that, this may be a good time to share that I have learned, after so many long years, just how important it is to not get so worked up about things that aren’t biblical issues. Oh, how I wish I would have learned this sooner!! (I could add a few more exclamation points here!) Those of you who knew me in my teens and twenties will attest to this. I used to argue over so many stupid things. My pride demanded that I prove I was right. How many bridges did I burn? How many walls did I build? My cheeks grow warm thinking about this. Thankfully, life has proved to me over and over again how often I get things wrong. Humbled, I have also learned that grace, love, and kindness are far more important than being right when it comes to issues that are not of biblical importance.

And the beauty of this is that if we are kind and loving and uncritical in our disagreements over inconsequential things, we will be given much more credence when we have something to say regarding God’s Word. Instead of having been branded as an unreasonable, harsh, and difficult person who builds walls, we have a reputation of one who is reasonable, humble, and kind, thereby opening the door to plant seeds.

Okay, so back to the list. As believers, we will have the opportunity to share God’s Truth with four types of people at one time or another. Here are a few thoughts on how a defensive, angry spirit will affect not only our relationship with them, but quite possibly their relationship with the Lord–

1. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of these will agree with us, but many won’t. It is important to never let side issues become major issues. Molehills often become mountains in these discussions. And this is how walls are built between people and churches are split. Now, it takes wisdom to discern if an issue is a molehill or a mountain, does it not? And this is where it can get a bit tricky. There are definitely many issues that qualify as mountains in the church these days. But how do we know what they are? The only way to do this wisely is to be reading and studying the inspired, inerrant Word of God and to be in sincere and biblical prayer, humbly asking God for insight. So many of us are still relying on childhood knowledge of God, spending very little time in the Word, and spouting off opinions and ideas that are ours–not God’s. This is a surefire recipe for division and disaster. And if we have determined that the issue is a mountain, let us remember in our attempts to speak truth that even this does not give us license for an unkind, angry spirit.

2. Baby Christians who are immature in spiritual things. Frustration or irritation in a conversation with a baby Christian can really yield some bad fruit. Many of them have not reached a place of humility nor have yet developed an interest in the deep things of God. If we come across as prideful and arrogant, we can quickly turn into their enemy instead of an encouragement. Instead of being an example of someone they should want to be like as they mature in Christ, we become an example of someone they don’t want to be like! This is not rare–and all because we leave love and grace out of our conversations so often.

3. People who are just starting to think seriously about God. He is drawing them and beginning a work in their hearts (John 6:44). Displaying a defensive and angry spirit is never a good thing but it can wield a deathblow to the heart that is questioning and has just started to open up towards God and the truth of His Word.

4. The unsaved who are antagonistic. These are perhaps the most frustrating for us. They think they know all the answers and have no interest in listening to our viewpoint. But a wrong response in these situations can mean the difference between light and darkness for a soul. This is for two reasons: First, I remember hearing a man give his testimony of how he came to Christ and he shared that this is just how he acted when he had a discussion with a despised Christian. So, the bottom line is that we don’t know who will or who will not come to Christ. We should never write someone off! And, second, is because people are always watching us. If we claim to be a Christian, they are watching to see if we actually act like one. When we get upset and defensive in the office or on the soccer sidelines as we discuss an issue with someone, they say “Aha! I knew it! I knew he (or she) was one of those legalistic, holier-than-thou types!” And a door closes. Maybe forever.

With each of these four groups of people we have the opportunity to plant seeds or build walls. We can say something with loving grace and kindness or we can say it with a harsh spirit. We can open doors or we can close doors. We must never compromise truth, but oh, how important that our resistance to compromise be accompanied by a warm and loving spirit!

God is the One who moves and works in hearts. The Holy Spirit opens eyes and God’s Word is powerful! We only need present the Truth. It is not our job to prove anything. We can walk away from a disagreement still as friends with the person with whom we disagree, confident that God is the One who works!

So I guess this is the question: Are we planting seeds with our words and attitudes or are we building walls? It has to be one or the other, as there is no in-between. Think about the last argument or disagreement you had with someone and ask yourselves these questions:

Was I unkind and brusque?

Did I need to prove I was right?

Did I raise my voice?

If the answers to these questions is yes, get on your knees and ask God to help you. He is faithful and it is never too late to change.

 

I Corinthians 13:1-8 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, 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.

Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

 

Pressing Through the Storm

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Raising kids is hard. Really hard if you want to do it right. It means saying no when everyone else says yes. It means setting boundaries, being consistent, and setting a godly example in all areas of life–at least giving it our best effort and then resting in the knowledge that God will make up for our weaknesses. It requires much prayer and lots of time in The Word.

Being an influence for good in the workplace is hard. It’s really hard if you want to not only be a good influence, but a godly one. It means forsaking popularity. It means that you may be teased, harassed, and targeted. It requires lovingly telling the truth when no one wants to hear it. And standing apart from the crowd, being lonely, and loving difficult people.

How about being a godly spouse? Or a blessing to your church family?

These are things we know are God’s will. We are supposed to be godly parents and spouses. We are supposed to be working for God’s glory in our church family and in our workplaces. But sometimes it’s just downright hard. We try so hard to do the right thing but it doesn’t always work out like we hope. People don’t like us. Or they get in the way of the good things we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes very intentionally. We are hurt. We are attacked. We are afraid.

It is at this point that many–if not most–of us cave. The storm rages around us and we grow frightened. We lose any bit of courage we may have had and we tuck our tail and run.

We go into hiding in our workplaces, staying quiet as a mouse when the subject of God comes up. We laugh at the dirty jokes and gossip by the water cooler. Anything to keep from standing out.

We stay at the fringes of the church family. Never really knowing anyone. Or offering to help in any ministry. It’s just easier and much less painful.

We become ineffective (or even negative influences) in our homes. We let our screaming toddlers and rebellious teenagers do whatever they want. We give up on our spouses and we stop praying for them. We become tired and hopeless.

But yesterday, as I read Ezra 4 for our G4L Bible Challenge, I realized anew the importance of pressing on through the storms of life. When the Jews were sent back to rebuild the temple, there was a group of people who plagued them constantly. They tried to discourage them, to frustrate them, to keep them from building (Ezra 4:4-5). And, yet, they kept on plugging away. At one point, they were required to stop working because of a letter filled with lies that this group sent to the King. But they didn’t give up hope. And, sure enough, they were back working at the temple years later.

God wanted that temple re-built, and so it was going to be re-built.

No man can stand in God’s way.

But that was then. And this is now. Those were God’s chosen people living that story and we are Americans living a world away and thousands of years later. If we don’t need to build a temple for God then what does God want for our lives? What is His will for us?

Perhaps we are supposed to be temple-building, as well–

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.(I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Our body is a temple– the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our calling as believers is to keep our temples pure and holy, obeying and glorifying God. We are to be confessing and eradicating sin. We are to live apart from the world and shine as bright lights of hope.

Building our temple is giving our whole-hearted efforts to our roles as spouses and parents. It’s building up the church and being a godly example at work. As we build our temple, it will change every area of our lives.

When we grow scared or angry, we have to keep working on our temple. We weather through powerful storms with scripture study and prayer. We do this for the sake of our marriages, our kids, our churches, and for the lost who live and work beside us. We can’t become ensnared in human drama and give up. Like the Jews in Ezra, we need to keep building, placing one brick at a time until, one day as our eyes close in death, we can see the temple we have built before us– A lifetime of service to the one, true God!

Sure, we may be given a mandatory pause due to illness or some other unforeseen circumstance but then we get back at it again. And if it’s in our control, then let’s not pause for too long. Because when we stop using our muscles we atrophy. Our bodies grow weak and useless. And because kids don’t wait. Before you know it, they have grown and there is no more time for Bible memory verses or family devotions. And because people die and move away. And tomorrow, that co-worker may no longer be there.

We need to keep our eyes on the goal and let the rest go. Just let it go. The storm may howl around us. The winds may blow. But, through it all, we keep building, remembering what’s important–

To know God and to make Him known.

 

 

One Lone Voice

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One of my daughters decided to comment on someone’s outspoken support of Friday’s Supreme Court decision on one of her social media accounts. She was polite and kind and truthful, using God’s Word as her guide.

What she got was–

HATE.

Malicious, hostile, cruel hate.

I find it so extremely interesting that the cry is to love, love, love. But somehow that love does not extend to those who disagree. No matter how lovingly and gently you state your disagreement.

I want to unequivocally state here that I am not against people who support gay marriage. I know and care deeply about several people who live gay lifestyles. I do not have to agree with you to love you.

Somehow we have grown just a bit confused about what love really is.

Love and tolerance are the words of the day, but those two words that are thrown about by this group are not extended to Christians who simply want to practice their faith. In my mind, the vicious attacks made upon Jesus Christ and His followers are a great confirmation that we are on the right path. Few others are maligned the way we are these days.

The coming trials and persecution are going to give us many opportunities. We are going to be able to share Christ’s love and the Gospel with those who are confused and hurting. And we will be used by God in a mighty way if the Gospel is lived out in our lives like never before.

But are we brave enough for this daunting task before us?

Since the Bible Challenge began in January, I have been writing about what we are reading on Thursdays. But on Saturday I read something in my Bible reading that is so fitting— so pertinent— so applicable— to what we are going to face soon in this nation as true believers that I just had to write about it today.

In I Kings 22, we read of a man named Micaiah. As a little background, we read first of Ahab and Jehoshaphat discussing whether or not to join forces against the King of Syria. To confirm their decision, they decide to ask the prophets of the land. All 400 men– four hundred men who claim to be men of God– tell Ahab that he will experience victory. There is not even one voice of dissension.

But there is one man by the name of Micaiah, who has not been asked. Ahab even states that he hates to ask this man of God anything because he always gives him an answer he doesn’t like! (I Kings 22:8) But with Jehoshaphat’s encouragement, Micaiah is brought before the two kings.

Micaiah chooses to speak truth, rather than tickle the Kings’ ears, even though he is going against the message of the 400 men who call themselves men of God. The truth of the matter is that Ahab will not return home from that battle alive. Micaiah bravely shares this bad news with the King. He is the one lone voice of truth.

In reaction to this unpleasant news, the King throws Micaiah into prison.

A few days later, Ahab is killed in battle.

There is so much to learn from this biblical account, in light of what we are facing in America today. Here are a few of the lessons that came to mind–

1. We need to speak truth, no matter how many people disagree with us. Today we have the Bible–the inspired and inerrant Book that God has protected throughout the ages. It doesn’t matter if the whole world disagrees with us– we still speak the truth as it is presented in the Bible.

2. We speak truth, knowing full well to do so could be at our own peril. Micaiah landed in prison because he chose to spoke the truth. Are we prepared to lose our freedoms, our reputations, our jobs, our comforts, our wealth, our friends, and our families? We are moving into a strange new land. It is not the land of our grandparents. And to follow Christ is going to mean sacrifice. Are we ready for this? Even as I write this, I realize that to do this will require the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in my life, giving me the courage and grace I need. Because when I think about this in my own strength, I tremble. Will I be strong enough to bear what’s coming?

3. We cannot alter our message to please the hearers. Micaiah could have tried to soften the blow and just hedged around, but he did not. While he wasn’t mean or unkind, he was forthright. If you recall, our ultimate example, Jesus, was very much the same way.

4. The majority does not represent God. The 400 men who told Ahab to expect victory were very obviously wrong. The majority can be– and often is– wrong! I am not sure what it is about peer pressure, but humans have this strange “herd” mentality where they just believe they need to follow the crowd. But the crowd is rarely right. Micaiah stood against the crowd. And so should we.

5. So-called revelations are not trust-worthy. These 400 prophets claimed to have special revelation from God. But they were lying. Just because someone says that God gave them a message doesn’t mean He did! These men were either lying to please the King or had been given a false message from demonic sources. Whatever it was, they were not trustworthy and we should take a lesson from this. With so many running around saying they have heard a special message from God–and particularly if it goes against God’s Word–we can know that they have not had a message from God. It may have come from their own selfish thoughts or from a demonic spirit but it certainly did not come from God.

6. The consequences of sin are real and Jesus is the only way, no matter what we choose to believe.  Ahab chose to believe that the majority was telling the truth but he was still dead by end of the day. Have you ever heard someone say that “whatever you believe is true for you?” I do not understand how a logical, thinking person could be brainwashed into believing such garbage, but most of our young people today do believe this. (This fact gives great proof to the brainwashings of our public education system and higher institutes of learning, in my opinion.) Truth is truth. It cannot be swayed or changed or twisted. And it certainly isn’t going to bow the knee to my whims and desires. Ahab was set to die and his choice to not believe Micaiah’s message would not change the outcome. And so we, too, are going to pay a very real price for our sin unless we come to the Savior. We can choose to believe this or choose not to believe this but, in the end, it doesn’t change the truth.

Fellow believers, we live in a frightening time. While many of our brothers and sisters in other lands have faced persecution and hard times for following Christ, we have lived in our comfortable homes, freely worshipping and sharing our faith. But the storm that was off in the distance for such a long time has now settled in upon us. Oh, it may not affect you directly…today. And you will be able to fool yourself for a few more months, or if we are fortunate, a few more years. But I encourage you to get in the Word of God and to grow your knowledge of His great strength and help in the time of trials. I encourage you to deepen your relationship with God and to grow a strong prayer life. Prepare to be the one lone voice in your churches, your families, your work places.

Because it’s coming.

It’s just a matter of time now.

 

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