Thursday, November 13, 2014

If you'll try a little kindness

4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  (John 8, New Living Translation)

Why are folks so quick to condemn and judge? It seems that there is a mentality that if someone wrongs us, we must immediately think the worst about them; we must treat them like a heathen outcast! How dare they do that to us! Perhaps we even talk to someone about them because "hey, they need prayer, ya know!" Oh, no, we're not "gossiping" at all, we're simply "sharing what happened to us!"

Have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it? I love that saying. If we prayed about it, we might find God telling us to read Romans 12:20:

Instead, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads." (New Living Translation)

We as humans tend to act before we think. We get all out of joint over some perceived offense and think that we have a right to be mad at someone. Did you ever stop and think that person might not have meant to offend you? Now I'm not talking about some egregious thing that was certainly intentional, but I'm thinking of instances that maybe they forgot something that was important to you or forgot to call/text you. Is that really worth getting mad about?

Are you perfect? I'm sure not! I've promised things before and they've totally slipped my mind. It happens. I promised a friend my chili recipe for instance and I keep forgetting to write it down and bring it to her. What kind of person would I be if I got mad at someone for something unintentional when I'm not perfect? I think we can find instance of that in the Bible as well in Matthew 18:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Yikes! That right there is some serious business, friends! If we don't forgive, God's not going to forgive us! We need to forgive the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us. That doesn't mean that we need to put ourselves in a situation to be hurt again by any means, but it means we give it over to God and let Him handle the situation.

Like Glen Campbell said in the song I added, let's try a little kindness to people.  Let's try to hold people to the standard we would want to be held to. We simply don't know what is going on in people's lives and we should treat them accordingly, giving them the benefit of the doubt. When someone does do the inexcusable to us, let's forgive them and let God handle it. We don't have to put ourselves back in the way of harm and hurt again, but can forgive and show them the love of Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

There's nothing to fear!

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes...

Wise words from Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a child, I found that statement humorous, but as an adult, I totally can relate to the premise President Roosevelt was putting forth in his inaugural address. 

It seems everywhere I'm turning these last few days that I see the subject of fear. From Christian memes on Facebook to my Interpersonal Communication class this afternoon, fear is being addressed. How many people deal with a crippling, paralyzing fear that controls their lives, a paralyzing fear they never share with the world? It may be something as small as a fear of public speaking, but it can be something as devastating as having a fear of leaving your house. The more we focus on what we fear, the firmer a grip it's going to hold on us.

Fear will rob you of your destiny if you allow it. God brought the Israelites out of Egypt's bondage; He was ready to take them to the Promised Land, something promised to their ancestors many years before. We know the story how it was a land flowing with milk and honey. Twelve spies were sent out to spy the land, but ten of them brought back a fearful report, a report that said the land was full of giants. Gripe, gripe, complain! Gloom, despair and agony on me! Like Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Archie Campbell and Gordie Tapp doing their Hee Haw skit, these ten spies were full of negative talk. Somewhere along the line they forgot that when God promises, God delivers! That whole generation of Israelites was not allowed to enter the Promised Land save Joshua and Caleb.

Isaiah 41:10 tells us this: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

We can Google any number of Bible verses dealing with fear and anxiety. God doesn't want us to fear! Going back to a previous blog where I pointed out "new level, new devil," Satan is going to come at us with a full frontal assault when God is ready to move us to a new level. God was ready to move Israel into the land flowing with milk and honey, but Satan put fear in their hearts. They missed their destiny!

Will you miss you destiny, fellow Christian? Will you allow Satan to dance around with glee knowing he kept you from a blessing? Will you instead stand up for your blessing and enter your destiny that God has prepared for you? Forget "fake it until you make it," but instead "fake it until you BECOME it!" Step out in faith, cast your fear and anxiety upon God and let Him take care of your fears!

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?  Psalms 118:6 (ESV)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Going up a level? Get ready for a new devil!

I'm not always a big fan of Joyce Meyer (though I believe she's sincere), but I've heard the words "new level, new devil" from her before. I kept having those words echo in my mind yesterday afternoon; today I felt led to write a blog on it. 

I'm a big fan of retro-gaming, still owning my Atari 2600 with 150+ game cartridges. I could probably pick most any game to show as an example, but I'll pick one of my all-time favorites, Pac-Man. I'm sure everyone is familiar with Pac-Man and how the little ghosts chase him around the maze while he eats dots. After Pac-Man has cleared out all the dots and power pellets, he moves on to a new level as do the ghosts. After so long, though, the ghosts become more aggressive and faster. No longer does Pac-Man have it so easy!

I believe we can find a spiritual component in Pac-Man. You see, our lives are the same exact way. When God gets ready to move us up to another level, Satan is not going to stand idly by while we get our blessing. No! He's going for full frontal assault! Whether that blessing be finances, relationships, physical or emotional well-being or a spiritual blessing, Satan is going to fight. 

The Bible tells us that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. His handiwork is evident throughout the ages. Even Christ Himself had to fight Satan in the wilderness before the Father moved Him up to a new level. Though certainly never fun, it is in the heat of these battles that we learn to trust God. 

We must keep ourselves on guard against the schemes of the enemy. He's not going to come at you in a red suit with a pitchfork, but instead he aims the fiery darts at our mind in a myriad of ways including doubt and temptation. 

I think many of us are probably worry-warts. What if "this" and what if "that?" We worry over things that will likely never occur. As a humorous aside, I'm reminded of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies where Granny is intent on getting Miss Jane married. Jed wouldn't go for it, so she went to Jethro. Jethro, always thinking he was an "international playboy," was worried that "she might say yes" and he'd be stuck with her. Granny replied to him that "the moon might come down and kiss you on the forehead, but it ain't likely!" I think that aptly describes most of what we worry about!

He many times will pull on the heart strings as a friend put it to me. He's not going to go after you with something you don't care about. Look at Job and how he lost his kids. If there's a particular blessing you're holding out for, he will many times attack us in that area.

It's time we stand up for ourselves as Christians and know who we are in Christ. It's time to remind ourselves of Whose we are and that He said He came to give us life and give it more abundantly!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Not another Christmas blog!

Yeah, yeah, I've already written a Christmas blog last year. As part of my Rhetorical and Critical Thinking class, I'm required to do a paper of my topic choice and present a pro/con argument. Naturally I chose Christmas. Here's my "pro" argument (a bit different than my last blog):

We probably do not think much about there being a controversy surrounding Christmas. There are splinter groups who believe that Christmas is everything from over-commercialized to a pagan holiday that will send you straight to the bowels of Hell. This turns into a fairly heady topic on religious forums around this time of the year; sometimes before! So what are we to make of this holiday called Christmas? Is it okay to celebrate it? It is my personal opinion there is not one iota of an issue with Christmas for a multitude of reasons. On Christmas day, families get together that often have not laid eyes on one another in a long time, churches are visited by people who perhaps have not been to church in a while, the name of Christ is most certainly exalted in Christmas hymns, people are more relaxed, and it is just good plain fun!

            Some of my earliest memories are Christmas get-togethers with family, family that is now in large part gone on. It was not about seeing Christmas decorations, nor talking about Santa Claus; it was seeing family that you had not seen in a long time. My dad is from a large family, family that eventually spread out all the way from Illinois to Memphis. Some families obviously have spread out even further than that due to careers or other personal choies. That makes for a high improbability of seeing one another too much during the year. Christmas is a time that many employers, if not most, allow their employees to have a day off, giving them time to travel and see one another. It would be close to a statistical impossibility for everyone to meet on some random date such as June 22; the hassle of everyone trying to get off would be a nightmare! With few exceptions, most people are off work, allowing them to plan a get-together on that day. Does not the Bible talk about family being of the utmost importance? What can be so wrong about a time that everyone can get together and fellowship?

            In our rushed society, how many people make time for church anymore? Although I am one of the types that “if the door is open I will be there,” I realize that many are not. I am certainly not about to criticize someone for not attending; that is between God and them. It could be that their work schedule is so crazy that they are rarely off when the church doors are open; perhaps they are so frazzled after putting in a 40, 50 or 60 hour work week that they need time to recuperate. Even the Bible tells us that God rested after the work of creation. Going back to what I pointed out on family get-togethers, Christmas might perchance be the only time they can darken the church doors. Since it is likely a given that they will hear the message of how Christ came to die in our stead, giving us eternal life if we choose it, what better time for that person to come to church? Even if the situation is such that the person could come to church during the year, but chose not to, what better time to choose to do so? Brother Andrews, my pastor, once asked someone why they only came on Easter and Christmas. The response he got, though sad, was a bit humorous. The man told Brother Andrews that he was in fact in God’s army, but in the Secret Service portion! If that “Secret Service” person only comes on Christmas day, but still hears the message, giving their heart to Christ, I want to know where someone finds fault with Christmas. Shouldn’t you be proud that there was a special day set aside that he could hear the message of the Gospel? As a Christian, it is about winning souls for the Kingdom of God, not splitting hairs about what day they came! 

            I consider myself a connoisseur of Christmas music, having LP upon LP, CD upon CD, cassette upon cassette, 8-track upon 8-track and so forth. To say I love Christmas music would be like saying the Pope is Catholic! I bring this up to show that if anyone should know the message of Christmas music, I should. From Jim Nabors singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” to Elvis Presley crooning “Silent Night,” the message of Christ is brought forth in song every Christmas season. Just like the person who hears the gospel message only once or twice a year, they are hearing the name of Christ exalted in the music, music that is played in stores, on television and on the radio. The central message of the Gospel is evident in many Christmas songs leading me to beg the question to the Christmas naysayers, what is so wrong about a time of the year that the story of Christ is brought out for public viewing in song?

            Christmas is a relaxing day of the year if you allow it to be. Many people will choose to stay home, watching parades and football. Others will choose family time to go look at Christmas lights or simply just visit with one another. No matter the chosen mode of relaxation, Christmas can be a tranquil day of the year if you allow it to be. We all need time to recharge our batteries, and this makes for a picture-perfect time to do so.

            Last but not least, Christmas is just a fun time of the year! There are Scrooge-types out there who simply will not entertain the idea of “fun,” but the Bible tells us that there are times for celebration and merry making. Caroling down the street with neighbors; singing along with the family while someone strums the guitar; putting decorations on the tree and hanging lights. There are so many Christmas activities that give you the “warm fuzzies,” that you merely do not get any other time of the year. 

            If and when Scrooge decides to give me a “bah humbug,” I’m going to give him a big “Merry Christmas!” Christmas is something special, a day unlike others that you won’t find any other time of the year. God is not sitting on His throne in Heaven waiting to strike me down for putting up a Christmas tree, nor is He turning up the furnace in Hell extra hot because I already have my fireplace hearth and mantle festooned with my numerous Christmas houses and figurines. Christmas is a time for families to be together, a time for the name of Christ to be exalted in churches and Christmas hymns, and a time for people to have fun and relax. Perhaps I am like country singer Bill Anderson, being born with too much of the spirit of Christmas in me, but I must agree with how Andy Williams put it-it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Be patient and trust the process

I do not think I have blogged on this thought before. If I have, you are just getting a double dose!

At my last job, I was in charge of accounts for a rent to own company. My job was to call people and remind them that their payment was due. If that did not work, I was supposed to send out "friendly reminder," "7 day notice," and "termination" letters depending upon how late the customer was. In the meantime, I was also supposed to try to continue making telephone contact as well as going to their home if the other methods were not getting a response. If none of that worked, I had to mail out a certified letter to their home telling them that the company I worked for would consider prosecution if the situation was not remedied.

I am not the most patient person in the world, at least I used to not be. I would start to get frustrated with certain clients who never could seem to pay on time, nor could they be bothered (it seemed) to communicate with me what was going on. When I would begin to get flustered, my boss would remind me to "be patient, Ronnie, trust the process!" He always had a laugh when he said it, but the added touch of calling me "Ronnie" made it a bit more hilarious, relieving my stressful mood.

I see a spiritual component to this, although it wasn't intended as such obviously.

How often do we become frustrated with God? We pray, we pray, we pray. We pray some more! We might perhaps even try to bargain with God. We even perhaps beg Him to change things! We may tell Him we just "can't take it anymore!" I wonder if God looks down on us and says to us what my boss used to say to me? "Be patient, son/daughter, and trust the process!" Maybe He even has that slight giggle like my boss did when saying it?

Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6 that "being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it..." We can have confidence! God is going to do what He said He would do! Of course, Satan will attempt to fight us every step of the way, telling us that God has forgotten about us, or tell us that God has us on a back burner while He is "busy" doing things for other people.

God is working on that "good work" in my life right now. I used to get stressed out with what was going on in my life just as I would stress out over the work situation. I thought I needed to see the big picture. I was like the little kid (aren't we all sometimes?) who would quiz his parents every few miles asking "are we there yet?" "How much longer, God?" Then when things didn't work out as I planned (notice "AS I PLANNED!!!"), I would become frustrated, letting doubt, fear and defeat creep in. In effect, I was calling God a liar! Mind you, no, I didn't mean to call Him a liar, but I was.

Slowly but surely God is showing me I don't have to see the big picture. Like the old song tell us, "one day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking of You...." Take things one day at a time. Sometimes miracles do happen overnight, but many times God has to prepare us for that miracle. God has to take us through a refinement and learning process before He can release that miracle to us. If He simply gave us what we want when we wanted it, we would wind up in more misery than we could imagine. We are sometimes like the teenager who assumes they know everything, can handle everything, and like the J.G. Wentworth commercials, "it's my [blessing] and I want it now!"

In closing, I would tell you to be patient and trust God's process. He may take us along some roads and paths that do not seem to make sense to our human mind. Look at any number of Biblical faith heroes. Joseph was sold into slavery, winding up in prison before he ascended to second-in-command of Egypt. David was anointed king of Israel, but fled for his life before ascending to the kingship. Even Jesus Himself had to go through the wilderness temptations! Be patient and trust God's process.