I’m writing this post, sitting outside of my hair salon with foils in my hair, looking semi-chic 🙂
And of course, I get some odd looks, people thinking I’m the reincarnated character from “My Favorite Martian”. But alas, it’s just the normal hair dye appointment, where the grey gets covered over & I maintain the look that says I’m at least 10 years than my birthdate would confirm.
And whatever we may look like on the outside isn’t as important as the decisions we make on the inside. Our internal thoughts, emotions, values, decisions and perspective are loads more important than the external image. It’s in my thinking processes where I:
make decisions to be generous,
decide to act from various insecurities,
consider how another may be affected by my words / actions
choose to be afraid or choose to be constructive
So no matter how we look on the outside, let’s be certain we make internal decisions to be generous & loving people. What’s on the inside is what will often regulate what happens on the outside 🙂
In the last few weeks, I’ve learned of various people who have committed suicide and it’s heart wrenching. A few of these individuals have been pastors, which hits even closer to home considering that I’m a pastor’s kid, I’m married to a pastor and I am a pastor. These events have also made me reflect on various people over the years who have committed suicide.
As much as I want to be articulate in this post, I feel so deeply about this subject that I can’t seem to get my words or thoughts into some semblance of order or cohesive progression. So maybe I’ll just free flow with this post and pray that it’s helpful to you, somehow.
More than anything, I hope that you will be gentle, tender and kind with others and yourself, regardless of any external veneer. When we are in a car and see a handicapped license plate, sticker or a “baby on board” sign, we will often give that person a little extra consideration, grace and space because we know there’s a vulnerable / fragile person inside that vehicle.
May we also have the same mindset with the people in our lives, appreciating that each person with whom we interact, has their own internal struggles regardless of what the exterior looks like or how they behave. Let’s be purposeful to:
“Why is He eating & drinking with sinners and tax collectors?” This is what the scribes of the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples in Mark 2:16, when Jesus got all cozy with these less than upright scum. The tax collectors and sinners were considered “yucky people” by the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day. So no wonder they questioned Jesus’ decision to not only associate, but also get cozy with such reprobates.
And I’m so thankful for His reply in Mark 2:17, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Thankfully, Jesus has never required us to get everything clean and pristine in our lives before He would hang out with us. Not only does He accept us as we are, but He makes us better because of His genuine love for us. In the same way, let’s be certain that no one in our lives gets the “yucky” treatment, being ostracized, belittled or shamed. Indeed, Jesus loves us and wants to love through us!
For many Americans, today is a memorable day because of the events from 2001. I suspect that many of us remember where we were & what we were doing when the two planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC. There are probably several other monumental events in your life that various triggers that evoke various memories & feelings.
While it’s important to keep these national events memorialized, let’s never trivialize the eternal work that Jesus does in our lives. His work includes not only our eternal salvation, but also the daily experience we can have with God’s genuine love not only to us, but also through us. Let’s be certain to remember God’s continuing work in our lives, so that God can express genuine love through us to the people around us! The world is living in a continual state of 911, making emergency calls that only God’s genuine love can answer & resolve!
Sometimes we find ourselves running on empty. This can happen not just with finances, but sometimes we run out of energy, or we don’t have enough time, maybe our relationships feel shallow or perhaps you have more problems than solutions.
Feel free to watch & share this short video to see how Jesus provides for us!
In the US today, we celebrate a national holiday called, “Labor Day.” The official year that it was started in America was 1882 & laborers had to strike to get the day “off” for a pause or rest from work. And I think it’s the universal human experience that we all need a pause from work. Perhaps we agree on this because of Divine design.
If you think about it, even God took a pause on the seventh day of the Creation week, when He rested. And to reinforce the need for rest, God established the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath is one day a week to rest from our work & set our attention / affection toward fellowship with God.
So let’s celebrate not only success and productivity, but also rest because without rest our souls become thin, weary, unsettled and broken. Happy Labor Day!
I recently received an email advertisement about getting 40% off a purchase at a store I frequent. When I attempted to use the discount, the cashier said that the discount wasn’t applicable because of the fine print. To my thinking, this is deceptive or tricky marketing and it doesn’t foster trust. It’s advertising that’s appealing, but the experience isn’t fulfilling.
Thankfully, Jesus isn’t a marketing trick. Indeed, Jesus far exceeds our wildest expectations and worthy of all our trust. There’s nothing tricky in Jesus, but rather everything trustworthy! Just because human marketing & expectations leave much to be desired, let’s allow our trust in Jesus to deepen since He is the ultimate expression of genuine love!
Who is: hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in jail or an immigrant? I was reading in Matthew 25 this morning about Jesus’ parable distinguishing between sheep & goat behavior. In this parable, the sheep are the people who see others around them who have various needs like clothing, food, shelter, belonging, care, attention and connection. In contrast, the goats in Jesus’ parable had no time, attention or capacity for needy people.
And this parable never fails to arrest my attention, forcing me to inventory my intentions and actions for sheep and goat behvaiors. I want to say with a genuine heart that I love Jesus, giving Him my worship & affection. But the reality is that however I treat the needy people in my life (those who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, living in bondage, or disenfranchised), is how I treat Jesus since He said in Matthew 25;45, “Whatever you do for the least of these [the needy folk] is what you do for Me.”
This verse always challenges me to love well, when I’d rather justify my selfish perspective 🙂
“Everyone is going to make it!” In Acts 27, these were Paul’s words to his fellow travelers who were on a ship, when everyone had lost hope that they would survive. And these travelers had very good reasons to have lost hope: an horrific storm that lasted more than two weeks, no sun or stars (so there was no navigation ability), sailors who were trying to abandon the ship, endless ups and downs, rain, wind and instability on a ship, and no sight or inkling of land for numerous days, to say nothing of not eating for two weeks because of raw nerves and fear.
In our daily living, we get to choose how we will respond to the ups and downs of life. The people around us can be despondent and lose hope, but let’s be the one who stands confident in God’s goodness and love, offering hope and future, just like Paul in the middle of a brutal storm. Let’s actively choose to trust in God’s love and goodness, while offering hope as a life preserver to anyone around us who may be discouraged by the storms of life!
Right motives but wrong target: when Saul was going to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus, he was endeavoring to promote adherence to God’s ways, but he missed the point that Jesus is God. I think Saul / Paul had good intentions, but he was misdirected. Thankfully, God interrupted his plans & gave him some pause to make some major adjustments to his belief system.
I wonder for us today, if we don’t sometimes need to have some adjustments to our goals. Similar to Saul / Paul, I think we can have very noble motives and intentions (adherence to God’s ways), but how we accomplish such noble motives can be tricky. Ultimately, when we are followers of Jesus, we need to make genuine love our motive & outcome because of what Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Are there any areas in your life that need to be changed so that genuine love is your endgame?
A fourteen hour day can feel kind of overwhelming & sometimes we have long days, overflowing with demands & activities. Modern living pressures us to stuff our days to the gills so that the more we get done, the better we feel and the more significant we are. Consequently, the idea of a Sabbath flies in the face of the modern lifestyle.
Nevertheless, God instituted a day of rest in each week as one of the 10 Commandments, so it’s on the same level of importance as not murdering, loving God, etc. And I’m writing this blog, maybe to myself more than anyone else because I’m on a gerbil wheel with overflowing days and more work than time. When we keep time and fellowship with God as our top priority, then the speed of life won’t result in a trainwreck 🙂
I’ve never met a person who enjoys failing & most of us avoid stuff that has a high risk for failing. But there are LOADS of people in the Bible who failed, took risks and some had tremendous successes – usually after they had overcome some significant failure hurdles. Some examples would include:
Jacob’s son, Joseph: failed with his brothers, but became 2nd in command to Pharoah in Egypt & rescued his family from famine
Jacob: tricked his brother & father, but went on to become “Israel” and the founder of the Twelve Tribes
Saul / Paul: gave hearty approval at Stephen’s martyrdom & became the largest contributing author to the New Testament in addition to founding the majority of early churches on two continents
When you fail, keep in mind some helpful perspectives:
failing is a verb, but failure is a noun: one can change but the other is more permanent
the greatest lessons often come from failing more than succeeding
failing can the essential fertilizer for redemption
no failure is beyond God’s power & love to transform into beauty, resurrection, abundance and divine success!
For a few weeks now my phone has been messing up with stuff that I write – it’s been incredibly frustrating!! I’ve done all the updates reboots etc with no improvement. This is why there are no commas in this post – arg! And my spell check is doing really funky stuff! When we are accustomed to using a tool in our daily living & that tool gets unreliable things change.
Thankfully God is faithful & unchanging. God isn’t merely a tool in our lives to get stuff done nor is God only a sugar daddy for providing for our lives. Let’s be sure that we don’t only see God as a function or tool but rather the essential intimacy in our daily living!
“We interrupt this program for this important message . . . . “
All of these examples remind us of things that arrest our attention to focus & tell us to focus on something different, even if just for a few minutes. In general, I don’t need any help to interrupt my focus because I can be easily distracted. Consequently, I do as much as I can to eliminate distractions and interruptions. While this strategy can be helpful in being productive, it is also possible that God might be trying to get my attention and I’m dismissing the “divine interruption” because I perceive it as a distraction.
In the Bible, there are some great examples of God interrupting a person’s daily living to grab their attention & invite them to make a course correction. Such examples include: Moses & the burning bush, Samuel as a little boy with Eli, Gideon hiding in the winepress with the angelic visit, the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus & Saul on the road to Damascus.
We would be wise to pause at what could be a distraction or interruption and reflect for a few moments to listen and watch for God to speak with us. Sometimes God interrupts our daily living to help us make some important decisions & course corrections 🙂
No one gets a pass on receiving bad news. And recently, I heard some stuff that was discouraging – the opposite of what I’d been asking from God & I was unhappy with opposite outcome of my prayers. I think it’s pointless to hide my emotions from God or pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. At the same time, the world doesn’t stop just because we get some bad news. So here are a few suggestions that could be helpful:
Tell God how you feel & what you’re thinking. Reading Psalms & Job give some really insightful thoughts & expression to emotions that are raw & real.
Perspective adjustments: sometimes it’s helpful to look at a broader picture than just the bad news
Consider the cause: is it possible that the bad news is a consequence of something you did? If so, maybe it would be helpful to make some course corrections / different decisions.
Choose to trust God: It always encourages me to remember that God uses all things for the the good to those who love Him & stay aligned with God’s purposes
Feel free to pass this along to any friends / family who might be struggling with getting some bad news
I find that life has seasons of serenity and contrasting times of turbulence. The danger of serene seasons is that we can become stagnant or let our values get highjacked by comfort and convenience. In relation to turbulent times, here are a few ideas that you, or a friend, might find helpful:
take a walk – I find that walking and talking with God helps me unload anxiety and gain some helpful perspective
pay attention to your choices – it’s not uncommon for us to seek comfort in turbulent times & sometimes what “comforts” us can actually be detrimental
get some help – this can be a variety of things such as exercise, making a praise & worship playlist, having lunch with a friend, reading a good book, etc
anchor in the Bible – it always helps me to find a few key Bible verses to keep in the forefront of my thoughts. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Ps 55:22, “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”
James 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Matt 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom & everything will be added to you.”
Luke 1:37, “With God, nothing is impossible”
Philippians 4:11, “. . . , for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.
I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.
In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!
More than 50,000 soldiers dead all triggered by a concubine running away from her husband. I’m reading the last few chapters of Judges in the OT & these events leave me baffled & cold. They baffle me because even though Israel obeyed God’s directives, they still lost two battles and 40,000 soldiers died.
These events leave me cold because of the human ability to be barbaric: the concubines husband cut her up into 12 pieces and sent her body parts throughout the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly, this is a very dark time in Israel’s history.
And there are times / events in our lives when we don’t understand God. Why does an omnipotent God allow atrocities and deplorable behaviors? And how does
God’s loving character reconcile with His judgment? Making these questions get even more personal, why doesn’t God heal various ailments & terminal illness?
Or why does a cheater co-worker get the promotion & we get bypassed, again?
I’m grateful that God is abundantly able to handle our questions, doubts, fears, uncertainties & pain.
While we wrestle with these questions, or different ones, let’s stay in fellowship with God for the simple reason that He holds us together because of His infinite love for us!