Loving When the Camera is Off

I was looking through some boxes in the basement when I came across an old video camera.  Do you remember those?  They actually had tapes you put inside of them in order to record something.  My grandpa used to video tape all of our family events and then we would need a special adapter to watch them in the VCR.   Having the camera took effort and planning.   We then moved on to the digital camera, which was more convenient to use, but still involved extra steps to take the video and upload it to a computer.  Oh, the good ole’ days!

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Camera or not, someone is watching.

Now we have instant access to video because most of us carry a camera at all times in our smartphones.  Things like Facebook live makes it possible for anyone to stream what they are doing at any given moment with almost instant feedback.   This only feeds into the narcissistic society we live in today.  The cry of the world today is “look at me!”

The Bible talks about how people will be lovers of themselves even more so as time passes. It says that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud…..and the list goes on.  (see 2 Timothy 3:2-3)  This creates a problem for the church of Jesus Christ because we are called to love people bringing glory to Him, not us. Except our flesh says “look at me!”   That means we need to be very careful about our motives for the things we do.  Are we demonstrating kindness because people are watching or are we doing it because we love Jesus Christ? Are we reaching into our community because we love people or because we want to feel like we are doing something?

What our communities really need are people who are the Church.  That is what brings glory to Christ.  We are the Church no matter where we are or what we are doing.  That means that whether the camera is on or not, be the Church.  Love the poor, broken, and lonely. Pray for people.  Pray with people. Share about the hope you have.  Be kind to people.   Involve yourself in the workings of the local community and be a witness for Jesus there.  Feed the hungry.  Visit the sick.  Care for the widow.  Make the community a better place because the church of Jesus Christ is there!  This is what being the church is all about and it has nothing to do with whether the camera is on or not.  People are watching anyway.  Let’s bring honor to the name of Jesus today!

Leave Them Better Than You Found Them

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered something.  Actually, I was just about ready to fall asleep and I had a thought pop into my brain.  As a side note, that is a strange place for that to happen for me, usually it is when I am taking a shower that I think the clearest.  But anyway, I got to thinking about how in many different places in my life I have been told to “leave it better than you found it.”  This is easy to understand when you are given something to borrow, or you are in someone’s home.  But what about if we thought the same about the people we encountered everyday?

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Encouragement comes in many places.

I was at a hotel with my family some months ago and I noticed an older couple strolling around the lobby.  The older man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him around.  Immediately I had compassion for them because they looked tired to me.  She loved him and would do anything for him.   He had some sort of health problem that limited him to the wheelchair.  I noticed they wanted to go into the pool area to see what was going on in there, but holding the door was challenging.  I went over a held the door so they could come in and then when they left again.  They both smiled at me and thanked me for my help.  I didn’t do much, but I hope I left them better than I found them.

Words have the power to hurt and heal.  Of course working with people can be a challenge.  If I chose to be negative or grumble about others, I will just add negativity to an already negative situation.  People don’t always do things like I do them.  Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes.  We are all human.  One thing that helps make things better is gratitude. I can say thank you.  In fact, I have found that one way to counteract negativity in the workplace or in the home is to say thank you, even to that person that can rub you wrong.  Actually, this is probably something we all can do better at.  It doesn’t hurt and it is free.

What can you do today to leave them better than you found them?  Someone needs you to lift them up today. 

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Who can you lift up today? 

Forgiveness is a lifestlye

Forgive me please?
Forgive me please?

Forgiveness is an important topic because other people so often hurt us.  That is the nature of relationships because they deal with people.  There are so many lessons in these situations for us!  God is not silent about this, but rather He has told us a lot about love and how to live with each other in kindness.  We need to love each other!

God desires fellowship with Himself; He offers Himself to us!  But so many people choose to live away from Him.   Even if you are someone who has received Jesus Christ as your Savior at some point in your life, you still might not be in full fellowship with God. Sin does that.  Sin does move us away from walking in daily dependence with God.

 Forgiveness is closely tied to this because forgiveness touches all areas of our lives!  You cannot walk in fellowship with God if you refuse to forgive people.  When you decide to hold grudges, gossip, hurt others it is directly opposed to God and pushes you away from fellowship with him to a place of isolation.

Forgiveness is needed for fellowship with God.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.- Ephesians 4:29

Unwholesome talk literally means “rotten talk” sort of like road kill in the hot sun.  No one would go down the road, pick up a rotting animal and serve it for dinner.  It is dangerous to eat rotten meat.  You will get sick. It says do not let this rotten talk come out of your mouth.

When you go to the zoo they have an important rule:  “Do not let animals out and do not let people in with them.”   Remember when the lady jumped in to the Polar Bear exhibit a few years back?  That didn’t end well.  You see, the goal is to set up boundaries so that people stay out and the bears stay in.  Do not let the bears out is really wise advice.

That’s the picture here.  Do not let those rotten words to come out of your mouth.  Instead you should let words that are helpful for building people up.

This is more than just saying curse words too.  This means other things as well that destroy relationships

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  – Ephesians 4:31

It says to get rid of these things.   Take them outside, pour gas on them and light them on fire because these things destroy fellowship with God.  But the difference is in verse 32 of Ephesians 4.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind, Be compassionate – why?  Because Jesus Christ is those things and He lives in you by His Spirit.

In Matthew 6 we have what is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus told His disciples that when they prayed, they should include certain things including forgiveness.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. – Mathews 6:12

Debts are obligations.  What are our debts to God?  Sin! Because the wages for sin is death.  We deserve death because of our sin, but God forgives us because of Jesus Christ.

So then it says, forgive us our debts as, or in the same way, that we forgive our debtors.

We forgive other people because God forgives us.  Except we aren’t very good at it.   But see forgiveness is not something we normally do, it is a lifestyle that needs to be constantly worked through in prayer so that it is lived out.

What sin must we forgive?  Are there limits?  No, we are to forgive it all and let God be the judge.

When we practice this we show God’s work in us because God true and good.  Forgiveness is freedom and forgiveness is where God blesses.  It is what He did for us and what we are to do for others.

People will hurt you. You will hurt other people.  At times this will happen intentionally and at other times not.  But we must not get hung up on it, but extend love, grace, forgiveness.  If we don’t we are running from God.

 

It is time to get inside the fence!

I found an interesting note in my notebook tonight.  It was a simple phrase that I wrote after a trip our family took to Pennsylvania in the spring.  The note was in reference to a picture of my daughter feeding a horse through the fence.  The fence was electric and it was on.  We had to carefully stick the carrot in between the wires and convince the horse to come close to the fence to get the food.

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The whole scene reminded me of ministry and the different ways people approach it.  What I wrote was: “Sometimes we are lazy and feed people through the fence, but we need to take a risk and go inside the gate.”   I know that so many times people distance themselves from the pastor or ministry leader because they are just unsure.   It is even worse when the pastor is the one distancing themselves from the people!  But it sure makes a difference when the pastor or ministry leader does not sit on the outside of the gate, but rather enters in and relates to them as people.

We must never get so busy with the day-to-day tasks of ministry that we forget the importance of spending time in proximity with people.  I know that it makes a much greater impact on lives when we love the people we serve more than the task of serving them.

If you lead a ministry, how do you make sure you don’t just go through the motions of ministry?  In other words, how do you ensure that you are entering into the fence and relating versus just sticking your hand through the fence?

 It is time to get inside the fence! 

Honoring God in Relationships

There are days when I look at my wife and say “isn’t this fun?”  That sarcastic remark generally comes in the context of our children fighting with each other.   My children, like all children I have ever met, have this intense desire to irritate their siblings.  It is something that we do not have to teach to our children.  When I was a kid I fought with my siblings as well and drove my parents crazy too!  The good news it that summer is winding down, and I guess that is also the bad news as well.

We all learn how to have many different types of relationships.  We have work relationships, family relationships, casual relationship, and formal relationship.  Sometimes people irritate us and sometimes they don’t.   There are even times when we irritate other people. (I know, shocking)  The difference is that as adults we should be able to work things through with people in a way that honors God.  This is in contrast to the complaining or screaming that kids might do.  The key to this has little to nothing to do with our own skills;  it has everything to do with the work of God in us.     Let me highlight three examples of this as an encouragement to all of us who want to live as Christ calls us to live.

They need to grow up honoring God above all else!
They need to grow up honoring God above all else!

Sing Praise to God With Each Other 

As churches we do this every Sunday because it lifts up the name of Jesus Christ and encourages each other to do the same.  When we worship together our focus is placed solely on the Lord and away from our own potential issues.

This works in my home when the kids want to start fighting about something.  We often turn on a song that they can sing along with.  Singing to God diffuses those areas of conflict.  Try it!

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,” – Ephesians 5:19

Be Thankful — Say Thank You 

Being thankful is not an add-on to the Christian life; it is a core piece of a Christian’s life.  Why?  Because we realize how much we have been given in Jesus Christ compared to what we deserve.  God is so good to us!

Try thanking someone for something they did and watch how it changes the relationship.  There is something amazing and affirming about genuinely thanking someone.  If there is someone you are having a difficult time with, it might be time for you to not only show them kindness, but also to thank God for them.  It will change your heart.

“always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:20

Honor Christ

The most compelling reason we need to really watch how we relate to each other is because it honors Jesus Christ when we love one another.  We need to remain connected to Him in order to accomplish anything.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of this in our homes and churches.  Jesus Christ deserves all our praise.  He is exalted as we are united in Him.  It could be time to set petty disagreements aside in favor of His glory.

“Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. ” – Ephesians 5:21

Relationships are not always easy, but we are called to serve God in the context of relationships.  When we keep the focus on God and how He directs us through His Word we find a unity that brings honor to His name.   As I tell my boys all the time, maybe it is time to calm down and share your Legos.  At the very least it is time to stop and praise God with each other.  He will work in our hearts when we do.

The Lego Jar (8/24/13) – When Dirt Becomes Clean

I have realized that over the course of time the Lego Jar posts have become a collection of pictures with my children in dirt.  Now I understand that there are various types of dirt they can and do get into.  My boys took it to a new level this week with their attempt to clean the dirt with water.  No, I am not talking about the dirt on their hands; I am talking about the dirt in the yard.

So, this is a problem?
So, this is a problem?

It just fits right into the normal scene we have everyday.  I look at the kids and wonder “how did you manage to get so dirt?”

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Spaghetti does not help, I know.

 

IMG_20130820_184047Of course the minute I turn around to help them clean up, my daughter ends up on the table again.  You might recall that she enjoys to climb.

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While we are talking about her, she really likes babies.  She has several of them, as seen in this picture.  She recently discovered the baby albums and flips through the pages with glee at all the babies in there!  The problem is she tends to rip pages out.  Mom frowns upon that.

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And the kids used the camera again.

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Lastly, we celebrated my oldest son’s 9th birthday this past week.  It is hard to believe.  He helped make his cake.  It was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips.  Wow!

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Have a great weekend!  Stay clean. 

Sin’s Ugliness vs. God’s Grace

So the Lord Jesus Christ takes us, a company of poor, worthless sinners and things that are despised, and, by the transforming power of His grace, He lifts us into His own likeness, and crowns us with His glory.” – A.B. Simpson from the book Danger Lines in the Deeper Life. 

It would not take much for any of us to get depressed at the things we have done in rebellion to God.  It can be overwhelming to stand before the holiness of God and wonder how it could ever all be made right again.  How can I ever change?

In John 4 there is a story about a woman who had a long list of issues in her past. We find out that she has had 5 husbands and was living with what could potentially be number 6.  She was certainly living with a regret or two with a side of guilt or shame.

I am pretty good, compared to that guy!
I am pretty good, compared to that guy!

The story is of her going to the well to get water; this is a task she had to do over and over again.  I can’t imagine what that was like because we don’t have to work hard to get water today.  But, all the time walking back and forth to the well would leave one to their thoughts a lot.   Jesus interrupts her daily routine to ask her for a drink.  She has no idea why he would ask her for a drink given that she was a Samaritan woman and He was a Jew.  Either he had no idea about the cultural issues between the Samaritans and Jews, or he just had a lot of nerve.  In either case, she had no idea what his angle was. So, Jesus pushed a little more.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10

Can you picture the look on her face?  I think she probably had a rather confused expression while her mind tried to understand what this was all about.  In fact, she vocalizes this: “You have nothing to get water out of the well from.”   In other words, “sir, you are making no sense.  The well is deep and you are empty-handed.”

Jesus goes on: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I Give him will never thirst.  Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4: 13-14

This seemed like a good thing.  I mean, after all, she was coming here daily to carry heavy water back home.  I think any opportunity to make life easier would be nice.  Except Jesus was after something deeper than that; He was after her heart.   He tells  her to go get her husband, hitting at a likely sore spot in her life.   Of course she doesn’t have a husband, something he tells her he is aware of.  In fact,  He makes it clear that he is well aware of her sin and He still wants to offer her a way out.

She is clearly impressed and leaves to go back to town without her water jug.  She came to get water and Jesus had offered her something far greater.  He changed her life.

So many people live with heavy sin burdens like this woman.   They walk around with a burden of sin and regret.   They work hard each day to satisfy a thirst in order to just keep things together.  Jesus offers a way out of that.  In fact, it says that she went back and told everyone about Jesus and many of them believed.  He got to the heart of the matter and offered her grace.  She knew she needed it and that others needed it as well.

Jesus meets people where they are at and calls them out to a place of forgiveness and hope.   The question we all need to consider is: what well are we drawing our water from?  If it is any other place than Jesus Christ, we will never be satisfied.  The thirst quickly returns and the cycle continues.  Sin is not something we should take lightly because when we look at it all in light of the cross, it makes the good news that much better.

“Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the person sinned against.  When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch  but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied;  that I am feeble and unable to do any good, but that in him I can do all things;  that while I now have in Christ His mind in part, but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven.  – Humiliation from The Valley of Vision.