The Difference It Makes

I spent some time vacuuming up the pine needles from our Christmas tree this morning.  The tree had held up quite nicely, but it was time to show it the door.

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The door just wouldn’t open.

Naturally the door I wanted to show it to was frozen shut.  I guess the below zero temperatures and the snow up against it actually froze it shut.   Well, that was awkward.  That’s okay, I have other doors.  The only problem was that pulling this tree out of this other door, involved tree sap and pine needles all over the place.   They got everywhere, including in my clothing.  (enough said)

 

As I was deciding what to do to clean it up, I asked and answered a question that I answer many times each day:  What difference does it make?

We all want to make a difference.  It wasn’t very long into my attempt at cleaning that I realized the vacuum was not actually picking the needles up.  That immediately made me reevaluate what I was doing.  I do not want to waste my time running this machine over the carpet only to have the same little prickly things in the carpet when I was done.

I have thought about this a lot as it relates to ministry, parenting, marriage,friendship and my time in EMS.  Everything I do comes out of that desire to make a difference.  I hope that my ministry matters in someone’s life.  I pray that the way I raise my children impacts them positively for their entire life.  I hope that my marriage is making a difference in our lives.  I trust that when I go to help some stranger who calls for help that what I do helps them.  Nobody wants to waste their time.

But can you actually measure all of that?  I mean, who is to say that even if I can’t answer  that question, that a difference isn’t being made?  I have been on many EMS calls where the only help I provide is someone to talk with.

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“Being with cows makes me happy!”

Did that make a difference?   I have  had many parenting moments when I have wondered if anything I was doing was even making a difference.  And yet, my kids surprise me at times with the way they reciprocate affection to me.  One of my sons loves farming so much that just spending time with the cows makes him happy.  The other kids don’t care that much.  To him it makes a difference.  In my over 10 years of ministry, I have preached sermons that have connected and some that have been somewhat flat.  And yet, God takes those efforts and uses them for His purposes.

 

One day I decided to send a card to someone who I had not talked to in a long time.  I had no idea why they came to mind that day.  I sent it off and thought nothing of it.  What difference would my simple note of encouragement be to them?  Would they even read it?  A few weeks later I received a response.  They said that they had received my note at a dark moment, on a day when they needed to know that God was there.  I had no idea, but it made a difference.

I guess this is a challenge for all of us to live a little more free.  Free to love.  Free to give.  Free to be so full of life that you are willing to do things for people even if it makes no obvious difference to you.  Why?  Because it makes a difference to them.

Living So That Others Praise God

Perceptions Matter
Perceptions Matter

Perception can be a nuisance for believers in Christ because so much of the world around us displays Christians as some hate filled, hypocritical group.  That is not the truth, but some people cannot be convinced otherwise.

In the New Testament we meet a man who was a persecutor of Christians.  In fact, he was one of the worst of them.  God interrupts his life and He takes a major turn in his life.  He becomes a committed follower of Jesus and people take note.  Word started to spread about this former killer of Christians turned Christian.  People were curious and even a little cautious.  Yet, what does Paul say?

“And they praise God because of me.” – Galatians 1:24

That is an incredible statement of forgiveness and unity found only in Christ.  It tells us that the main thing was not what he used to do.  The main thing was that  he had met Jesus and his life was now vastly different.  That is exciting!

As you being your day today I wonder how much people are praising God because of you.  I ask that question because I am thinking about the same thing.  Is my life a cause for others, even those who maybe don’t even know Jesus, to praise God?

My boys being extra "helpful"
My boys being extra “helpful” at our fire department service project

I know that our current church situation provides for us opportunities to display the grace of God to the community.  We are glad for the opportunity but certainly don’t want to take any praise.  We are who we are because of Jesus Christ.  All praise goes to Him!

Ultimately the only way perceptions of Christians are going to change is if we all live so that Jesus is seen in us.  If that happens people will praise God.