Just before Christmas, Benedictine University did a survey of former Catholics and lapsed Catholics to find out why they had stopped attending Mass and to ask what they could do to bring them back. I was already planning this series when I found out about the survey, but it made me think a
“. . . God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages. He wants you to have preferential treatment.” Joel Osteen—Your Best Life Now This quote is an example of a concept known as “prosperity gospel.” There are several variations on the theme,
Finally, THIS is the happy ending. God called my bluff, and decided it was time for me to make the move to close the gap between us. I announced my impending divorce to the church choir and tendered my resignation from the music ministry. That night, as the church emptied, I hit
God displays his heart for the people he created very explicitly in the book of Jonah, my personal favorite in the entire Bible. Most people know about Jonah being swallowed by the whale/big fish, but that’s not really the point of the story. Jonah was on that ship in the first place, because
Discernment is the divine enablement to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong. A person with this gift can differentiate pure from impure motives, identify deception in others, determine authenticity of messages from God, recognize false teaching and sense the presence of evil. (Paraphrased from “Network” by Bruce Bugbee
Imagine you’re at a funeral on a cloudy day. Then the sun comes out from behind a cloud. Now if you are a scientific, buttoned-down, fact-based kind of a person, the first thing you would say is that the sun didn’t move–the cloud did. You could give a meteorological explanation of prevailing winds,
PRACTICE GRACE “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Some of us are blessed with great relationships with
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV) This is one of the more misunderstood passages in the Bible. It’s easy to see why. Who doesn’t want to get the desires of his or her heart? Who has ever watched an Aladdin movie without
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana—The Life of Reason All that is not eternal is eternally out of date. C.S. Lewis Back in the Empty Glass series, we talked about three ways of learning. There is experience, or making your own mistakes and learning
THE PRIZE So to sum up from the previous six posts, the most effective solution to Christianity’s PR problem is for the individuals within the church to live lives of service. We PRaise our God, PRotect our spouse’s hearts, PRovide for our children, PRactice grace with our extended families and PRove to
Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone. (Colossians 3:2-3a VOICE)
Why is it that we dwell on things that we know aren’t good for us?
How many times have you caught yourself starting a sentence with “I really need to” or “I really ought to,” but then you don’t actually do what it is you really need to do? It’s as though we think we’ll at least get partial credit for simply acknowledging that we have fallen short of what is necessary. I really need to eat a salad, but I’m going to have pizza instead. I really need to go to the gym, but I seem to have grown butt roots here on the couch.
Or how about these. I really ought to pray more. I really ought to read my Bible more. I really ought to get off the Internet and pay attention to my kids. I really ought to put my phone down and talk to my wife. Can you relate to any of this?
You could say that acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it, and it is, but one step does not a journey make. You have to take the next one.
The thing is, the next step is usually not anything difficult. We just. . .don’t. . .do it. How hard is it to make simple choices like ordering something different at the restaurant, standing from a seated position, or simply TALKING to someone? So why do we make it so much harder than it is?
I would chalk it up to a combination of habit and fear of change. We do what we do because we have always done it, or if not always, at least for long enough that it has become automatic. Habits are comfort zones; therefore, breaking them makes us uncomfortable. And we will always gravitate toward comfort if left to ourselves, no matter how obvious it is to us that a change would do us good.
Christians do not have this luxury though. When we turned our eyes toward Christ, we also turned them toward heaven, where He is. Once you have seen a glimpse of the eternal, the things down here lose their luster a bit.
The problem is that the things down here are the things we are used to and that we continue to be surrounded with every day of our lives. We love our stuff. We love being in control of our own schedules. We love our dreams and ambitions. Even if they no longer satisfy us as they once did, we have claimed them as our own, and we defend them.
We can not forget this simple truth though. When we made Jesus the Lord of our lives, we signed a spiritual quit claim deed for all of that stuff. Our possessions are not ours, because the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord. We are not in control of our lives, because we have no idea what the next day, or even the next hour, may bring. And all of our dreams and ambitions die with us when we die. From a spiritual standpoint, they have already died, because we surrendered them when we surrendered to Christ.
When we talk about “overcoming the world,” we are usually focused on all the evil bad things that we wish we didn’t have to deal with down here, and that we know won’t exist up there. However, if we are serious about overcoming the world, then we also must focus on overcoming the pleasures down here along with the pains. This is much more difficult, because while pain usually catches us by surprise, pleasure is something we continuously seek. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.
Now is it bad to do things that feel good? Not necessarily. The point of this is that we need to realize that eternal life with Christ will feel, and indeed be, better than anything we have going on down here.
The thing we have to learn then is to be patient for the reward that is coming for us up there instead of being consumed with rewarding ourselves down here.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16-18 NIV)
Life can really wear you out sometimes, can’t it? We work so hard to try to better ourselves and to make the world a better place for our families, but some days, it just looks like we aren’t making a difference at all. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s really worth the effort.
What is it that wears us out when the problems of the world overwhelm us? Everyone’s situation is different, of course. It seems to me, though, that the things that often trouble us the most usually aren’t even happening to us directly. The problems that are too much for us to bear weren’t even supposed to be our own personal burdens. We barely have enough strength to get through the trials that life hands us, but we can’t seem to keep from taking on extra baggage as well. Why do we do this?
Can we just call this what it is? It’s fear.
It’s fear that gives birth to worry. You worry when you seeing angry mobs rioting on the news, but is there an angry mob outside your house right now? (Of course, if there actually IS one outside your house, you have an actual problem, and should stop reading this blog and go take care of yourself.)
My point is that we worry ourselves into exhaustion and despondency about things that aren’t even happening where we are. Yes, they are happening in the world, and they are real, but if we’re not in a position to directly solve the problem, it’s not our problem.
Now please don’t misunderstand what I mean by “not our problem.” I am not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about things in the world that are wrong and need fixing. What I am saying is that 99.99% of the time, it’s not up to us to fix it, either because we lack the resources, the ability, or we are simply too far away to have a direct and immediate impact on the situation.
So what can we do? We can give the situation over to the One who can do something about it. And while we’re at it, we can give Him our anxieties as well.
Yes, the world is a mess. It’s a mess because it has people in it, and people are a mess. And yes, you and I are people, so guess what? We’re a mess too! But we can be less messy.
A good way to start that process is to examine what you expose your mind to. How do you start your day? If you’re turning on the TV or rushing to social media, that’s what’s going to set your tone for the rest of the day. Is that the tone you want? In the same amount of time, you could meditate on a Bible verse or an inspirational quote of some sort. You can’t control what happens out in the world, but you can control what goes into your head, which is what feeds your attitude.
Once you have developed the habit of being intentional about this, it will become easier for you to shift your perspective from the now to the not yet. When things are going badly, it is easy for fear to rob us of hope, but remember this. EVERYTHING we fear, or could possibly fear, has an ending. We may not be able to see it from where we’re sitting, but all the troublesome things of this world will pass.
Instead, what we can learn to do in ALL situations is to focus on the things that won’t pass away. Truth. Love. The Word of God. Best of all, the eternal life that is given as a free gift to all those who put aside their fears, worries and the troubles of this world and trust in Jesus, who by His death and resurrection, has overcome all of them.
Now of course, we can’t see any of this. We can’t see our fear, the Lord’s Spirit, the actual physical Kingdom of Heaven. We only see this world, its problems, and our own aging faces in the mirror.
But as the risen Christ told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:12-18 AMP)
Well, the election’s finally over, and as expected, it has stirred up more issues than it has settled.
As is usually the case, Truthseekers were at a loss throughout this election, since Truth and politics are generally not found in the same place at the same time. Some of us voted defensively, some of us searched in vain for a viable third party candidate, and some of us just stayed home. Now that what’s done is done, we’re all asking ourselves the same question. “What do we do now?”
Well, the answer is the same thing we’ve always done. Seek Truth in the common ground. But how do you find common ground in a nation so divided?
I covered a lot of this during the last election in the Us and Them series. However, since it seems to me that strife and discord have been amped up significantly this time around, I would like to focus on the concept of peace and the part we have to play in it.
We are called to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. In a climate such as this, I would suggest that we focus on the clinging to what is good part. It’s too easy when emotions are running high to go from hating WHAT is evil to projecting that righteous hatred onto people, which is the line we should never cross. If the news is raising your blood pressure, watch something else. If your “friends” on social media are stirring the pot with their ignorance, get off Facebook and go put your face in a book. Better still, put your face in THE Book. Remember, all evil things will eventually pass away, and the good will remain. So why expend our energy on things that won’t last?
We aren’t supposed to judge people anyway, but we REALLY need to get past this judging people by whom they voted for. I think most of us can agree that there were no good choices this year, so why should we judge someone else’s choice?
That person you’re angry at because he or she voted differently than you and is venting about it on social media—who was that person to you before the election? Did you respect him or her then? So why not now? No one’s inherent worth is diminished by a single ballot. Remember that.
A Truthseeker’s objective is to end arguments, not start them. It is not our place to try to inject moral superiority into the discussion. For this reason, I urge patience above all. Resist the temptation to “correct” people, even if they are obviously wrong. When people are angry or upset, the lids of their minds are fastened tightly, and you aren’t going to reach them anyway. Pray for peace and reason to return to our society, and wait patiently for this to pass, because it will. Dust can’t settle if you stir it up.
Look for ways to be kind to people. The needy are still needy, so don’t forget them. Let wherever you are be the “safe space” where discussion of politics doesn’t have to happen. There are so many other things to talk about.
Don’t take the bait when some fool on the internet calls you out, directly or collectively, for how you voted and/or the motivations behind your vote. Justice is God’s job. If they have it coming to them, they will receive it in their due time. This is a good opportunity to practice forgiveness. After all, our sins are forgiven to the degree that we forgive.
I don’t really know that there were any “winners” in this election, but there are many who will lose. I am not suggesting that the criminal element of our society that would riot and destroy and call it a “protest” should be treated with compassion and understanding, but there are many people who stand to lose something dear to them in the upcoming administration. Be compassionate while they grieve their loss.
Make the most of every opportunity to establish common ground with people, preferably face to face. Listen to their stories. See people as individuals and not as members of a group. Come alongside people in their difficulties. Focus on solutions rather than problems. Above all, pray first, and listen carefully for an answer, before presuming to dispense wisdom. When tensions run high, even the most well meaning of advice can be perceived as an attack.
And PLEASE avoid the temptation to seek revenge, whether in word or deed. That is NEVER our job. It is natural to feel some sense of satisfaction when the times shift in your direction after they have been against you, but it is not our place to rub anyone’s nose in their own misfortune. You will never earn someone’s respect by spiking the football. Just hand it to the official and go back to the sideline. Justice is God’s job, and part of that is righting wrongs. It will happen in His timing. Don’t force the issue.
Most importantly, it is up to you to make the first move toward peace. You will have to use your best judgment with each individual you encounter as to whether that means actively extending an olive branch or remaining silent. Things are going to be ugly for a while. They may get out of control for a time as well. You have a choice to make it better or make it worse.
You may not be able to single-handedly fix what’s broken in our nation, but how you treat other people is one thing that you CAN control. So stand firm, pray hard, and keep hoping for the best. It WILL get better eventually.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)
The Christian walk is not concerned with how good we feel about ourselves for being Christians. While we don’t need to do things for God to get His attention, we do still have a part to play. Even a simple game of follow the leader requires effort.
Grace is the free gift of God, but it did not come cheaply. If we had no role to play in working out our own salvation, then what would be the point of getting saved in the first place?
The work that God does within us by the power of the Holy Spirit ought to be evident externally. We have been changed from within so that we may bring change to the world without. So what does that look like?
In Part 3, we began by listing the nine “fruits” of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, the characteristics that are produced by Him in us, which are the evidence of His existence in our lives.
- Love. As we have discussed previously, love is an action word, not an emotion. Love involves sacrifice, or always putting the needs of others before your own.
- Joy. Like love, joy is more substantial than just a feeling of superficial happiness. It is a powerful force that is God’s response to our praise and thanksgiving. This strength renews and refuels us, giving us the proper attitude to carry on with whatever comes our way next.
- Peace. More than just an absence of discord, a spirit of peace involves trusting that God is strong enough to bring us through whatever trials await us, no matter how dire they may seem at first.
- Patience. I KNOW this one’s coming from the Lord, because it sure didn’t originate with me! This is the supernatural ability to stay chilled and let things roll off your back. In many people, this is the first fruit of the Spirit that others notice when they detect a change in a new believer. Short fuses get a lot longer.
- Kindness. Kindness is love in motion. This is the act of lifting up another who needs it. Before the Spirit’s work in your life, there were people you might not have even noticed. Afterward, though, you might find yourself helping these folks out without giving it a second thought.
- Goodness. I’ve always wondered why this one was listed after “kindness,” because goodness is the attitude from which kindness flows. For us to be able to do good for others, we have to first have the general mindset of doing good for good’s sake.
- Faithfulness. A person under the influence of the Spirit will live a life of integrity. He will say what he means, mean what he says, finish what he starts, and always, ALWAYS keep his word. Lack of faithfulness is one of the quickest ways to spot a fake Christian. Someone who is timid, wishy-washy, unreliable or just plain dishonest is not living by the Spirit, regardless of how long he or she has been going to church.
- Gentleness. Along with patience, this is another very obvious sign that God is working in someone’s life. If a person has a history of anger issues (as I have), and you see that person holding his tongue, not raising his voice, being less competitive, etc., it’s a good bet that person didn’t learn those techniques from a self-help book.
- Self-Control. Along with gentleness, people under the control of the Spirit are able to keep themselves together, hold themselves back, and keep themselves from going to pieces in stressful situations. Again, when you see someone with a reactive nature not taking the bait and going for the throat anymore when someone tries to start an argument, you know that something’s up that didn’t start with that person.
I can not stress enough that this list is not intended to be a to-do list for you to check off.
The goal here is not to get these things done. It’s to keep in step with the Holy Spirit by letting His influence in our lives rule our conduct. If our goal is to live lives of strong moral character and integrity, then the characteristics in the list above will shine through naturally, sometimes without our even being aware of them.
Other people will notice, however, just as they notice when we claim to be filled with the Spirit, but fail to display these characteristics.
Again, the characteristics are not the goal. The character is.
(For more on living this out, come back for Part 5—As Far as it Depends on You)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
I am a very task-oriented person. I am all about the to-do lists. I get pleasure when I check something off, and I get stressed when I get to the end of the day, and there’s still 12 more things on my list that I didn’t get to.
Because of this, I have a tendency to turn almost every facet of my life into a sort of mental to-do list. Everything feels like a competition or a performance to me, in which I will emerge as either a winner or a loser.
Most of life really isn’t supposed to be that way, though. I am learning that it’s actually OK to simply live life as it comes and to appreciate moments as they’re happening. I am learning that it’s more important to start each day with gratitude than to finish it with a gold medal.
So what is it about us that we keep wanting to go back to the things that we know didn’t work the first time? Are we just addicted to futility? Or is this just part of the natural state of being human?
I think that the problem lies in our tendency to define ourselves by what we do or by what we fail to do. If I win, then I am a winner, but if I lose, then I am a loser. Nobody wants to be a loser though, so we do everything we can to win at life. And if we find we can not win, then we start doing things that are truly ridiculous.
Some people try to downplay life’s natural consequences by attempting to eliminate the concept of winning and losing, a concept that I call the “participation trophy” mentality. You’re a winner just for showing up! And if you didn’t even show up, we’ll try to find an excuse for you, so that you won’t lose. After all, you deserve to win!
Then there are the “glory days” people (I tend to fall into this category). These are the people who used to be the best at something, but then they either went somewhere else where there were other people that were better, or maybe they just got old and weren’t as good as they used to be. If a person like this is focused on the winning, and he isn’t winning anymore, bitterness takes over in a hurry.
A person in this kind of a rut can’t let go of the past, can’t be happy for anyone else who wins in the present, and is bleak about the future that he sees for himself filled with nothing but losing. Because if you lose, then you’re a loser. But you can’t be a loser, because you used to win. But now other people are winning, and keeping you from the victory that is rightfully yours. So if you can’t beat them, then you have to tear them down, so that you can be on top again.
Both of these misguided worldviews lead to the same error—trying to put everybody else on earth at the same level so that we can feel good about ourselves, either by having no distinction of greatness, or by declaring ourselves great by attrition. Both of these philosophies fail, because they are both built on the foundation of defining our worth by what we do, rather than who we are.
God gave us a better way to live. In the Bible, Paul calls it “living by the Spirit.” This is a churchy way of saying “getting out of your own way and letting God do His work through you.” Living by the Spirit isn’t about checking things off of a religious checklist. It is more about being aware of God’s influence in our lives, and allowing ourselves to be led away from our own plans and deeper into His.
Notice in the verse at the beginning that it is the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, not us. We don’t overcome the world by accomplishing all nine of those things on our own. Rather, when we yield to God’s leading in our lives, these fruits are the natural result of the change that He works within us.
(So what does that look like? Come back for Part 4—Keeping in Step.)
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NLT)
Everyone has up days and down days. Christians are no exception. When we are in a desert faith-wise, as I have been for a while, it is so important to have people around us that can build us back up. Also, we should remember the example that these people set for us, so that when we’re back on the mountaintop, we can lift somebody else up who needs it.
Unfortunately, the tendency in these dry seasons of the soul (especially for a cave-dwelling introvert like me) is to pull away from people. We get used to our misery, and it seems that we would rather prolong it than to have someone tell us what we need to hear.
The problem with that is that when we pull away from people, we pull even further away from God than we were already feeling. That’s when the old bad habits start rearing their ugly heads again. One of my biggest fears since accepting Christ is that someone is going to encounter me during one of these bad times and associate what they see in me with Christianity in general. What if I’m standing at the throne at the End of Days giving an account of my life, and I find out that someone missed out on the Kingdom because of something I said or did that turned him or her away?
But fears like this can actually accelerate the downward spiral. We might figure, “If I avoid people entirely, then I won’t run the risk of blowing my witness and staining the name of Jesus.” So we pull even further away, not just from society, but even from the hand that feeds us.
Another manifestation of getting into a spiritual funk like this is that we stop reading the Bible. Everything we need to adjust our attitudes is right there, and the Holy Spirit is only too willing to illuminate the verses that we need to hear, but again, we are too comfortable in our misery to put forth the effort of opening a book. I am so grateful to have a wife that will put scriptures in front of me when I am not going to them myself.
Do you have someone in your life that cares enough about you to give you a lift like this whether you want it or not? If you don’t, then find one. The best place that I have found for this type of community is in a small group (sometimes called “life groups” or “cell groups”) in a church. If you are not familiar with this concept, it’s a group usually of 8-15 people that meet regularly to go deeper together in their faith than they would get by only going to church on Sunday morning.
What we need to remember is that we were set apart from the world to be WITH God and His people, not to be hermits in a cabin in the mountains (not that there’s anything wrong with mountains!).
As I mentioned in Part 1, a normal life involves difficulties. For a Christian, those difficulties include enduring people who mock the Name of Jesus and those who adhere to it. Sometimes it seems that life would be easier if we didn’t have to endure that, but we have to remember that this life is not all there is. The next one is a lot longer.
God’s joy and peace are there for the having. You just have to want it. But sometimes, you need somebody to remind you that you want it. So don’t ever be afraid to call for backup.
I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (WEB)
Ever have a day where it seems like the world is just coming down on you and everything seems hopeless? Ever have about five months in a row like that? I did. That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while.
It isn’t that anything traumatic happened in my life in this stretch of time. I just ran into an extended dry spell where my faith wasn’t keeping up with my circumstances. Election years in general do that to me, and this has been the worst one ever.
In times like these, we Truthseekers need to get a grip on ourselves (and each other) and simply remember just Who it is that’s really running the show, whether or not we are aware of it.
God’s goal is never to confound us, but to bring us peace. Another way to word that would be “confidence.” He wants us to rest assured that He is not only bigger than whatever comes our way, but that our circumstances are all a part of his plan.
There are so many ways that we can learn from adversity. Sometimes it’s a course correction if we are going a way that we should not be. Sometimes it’s to find out that we are really stronger than we thought we were. But sometimes it’s the opposite of that. Sometimes God allows us to walk through difficult seasons as a means to get us to STOP relying on our own strength and to rely on His instead.
That sure sounds like the right thing to say from a spiritual standpoint, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when you’re going through it, does it? I really admire people who hold unswervingly to their faith when going through things like extended illnesses or financial hardships. I am one who wants things fixed, and fixed NOW, so I can get on with my life. Trials and tribulations are an obstacle to my plans.
If you think this way, as I often do, that’s the indicator that you’re getting off track. Because if you’re most concerned about your own plans, then you’re not in submission to God. He knows what’s best for us, and more importantly, He knows what’s coming next.
Maybe it’s just part of being American, but I can get so bent out of shape over my first-world inconveniences. I can count the major trials I have had in my life on one hand. They are significant, but they are not a daily occurrence. We get so spoiled in this country that we forget all too easily that troubles are a normal part of a normal life.
The world can be frustrating. The people in it can be REALLY frustrating. However, it is pointless to allow ourselves to be mastered by our frustration. There will be things in this world that we can not conquer, but Jesus has already conquered everything that ultimately matters.
Who has believed what we’ve been saying?
Who has seen the Lord’s saving power? (Isa 53:1 NIRV)
Some people ask me why I write this stuff without getting paid for it. Simply enough, I didn’t pay to receive the messages, so I imagine it’s only fair to offer them for free.
Basically, I sit down to write, I pray for a message, and I type what comes. It is no concern of mine who accepts the message and who doesn’t. My job is simply to deliver it.
So is it worth it? I would say yes. I do encounter some opposition, but not as much as you might think. That would probably be significantly worse if I were broadcasting my own opinions, but since I deal in Truth, I am more interested in ending arguments than starting them.
Sometimes I wonder though. Why is it that I don’t encounter any more opposition than I do?
Do the messages have more authority because they come from God? Well, Jesus was speaking the words of God straight from His mouth, and they crucified Him, so that’s not it.
Is it because of my superior skills as a writer? Doubt it, because then somebody would be paying me more for my words by now.
Maybe my messages just aren’t bold enough to make people angry enough to respond? Maybe, but I’ve never really been one to hold back. If anything, I’m known for erring on the side of Truth rather than grace.
So what is it then? I have an idea.
You see, I pray before I write so that whatever message comes out of my laptop onto this page is the message God wants me to broadcast to the world, but I also pray when I’m finished writing, just before I click “publish,” that the message will be delivered to just the people who need to see it.
This is where faith comes in. I am never thinking of anyone specific when I write. I just write. I am completely relying on God that the message will be coherent, and understood by those who need to hear it.
I don’t get many comments, and I am OK with that. But it does mean the world to me when somebody drops me a brief note to tell me how something I tossed out onto the internet brightened their day or caused them to look at something in a new way.
That is how I know I am fulfilling my mission. Why would I charge money for that? Part of the trust and reliance I have on God is that my needs will be met if I obey his instructions. And they are.
I never know what I’m going to write when I sit down to do a Truth Mission post. Many professional writers will tell you that’s a bad idea, but I am reminded of a story Corrie ten Boom told in her book, The Hiding Place.
Corrie would frequently ride the train from Haarlem to Amsterdam with Casper, her father. He would always have the tickets in advance, but he wouldn’t give Corrie her ticket until right before they got on the train. The lesson is that she always got what she needed right at the moment she needed it, and not a minute sooner, even though she knew that it was coming.
That is how faith works. God knows what we need before we do. He holds onto it until just the right time. This may not be what we perceive as the right time, because we are not patient people. But faith is trust, and trust involves learning to wait.
Life isn’t ever going to be perfect, and things rarely go well on our own schedules. I would love to be able to post every day on here, and have advertisers falling at my feet wanting to sponsor my site, and make lots of money writing so that I would never have to hear an alarm clock again.
But that’s not why I’m here.
I am here to plant seeds of Truth. The harvest is God’s job.
I’m not trying to “save the world.” But if something I felt prompted to write affects even one person’s life, then I have changed that person’s world.
And who knows where that might lead?
This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 AMP)
Our kids’ generation is not immune from the error of past generations trying to pass love off as a feeling. Love is an action word. It is the act of sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others.
It seems that the first thing to go when a child loses his or her innocence is the ability to love. Not the ability to feel, but the impulse to give sacrificially without thinking about it. I believe that this is because kids in our American culture are so habituated in getting that it doesn’t even occur to them to give.
Remember, a child’s “reality” is limited by his or her perception, just as an adult’s is. But the less life experience you have, the narrower your perception. Children don’t instinctively know the difference between perception and reality, so it isn’t ever going to occur to them to test their worldview.
Where this becomes problematic is if they think that the world revolves around them, they will assume that to be true until they find out otherwise.
Another stumbling block for kids once they reach their adolescent years is their growing self-reliance. Growing up is inevitable, and becoming more independent is generally a good thing as one gets older. However, because kids don’t know what they don’t know, it is very easy for them to get in over their heads when trying to do something themselves.
Because they have not yet mastered their pride, if indeed they are even aware of it, it is also not in the nature of most adolescents to ask for help, even when they are completely overwhelmed. Sometimes, it seems that they gravitate more toward the drama of being in a mess than in actually finding a solution to their problem.
I think this is why it is frequently so difficult for older kids to show love. 1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because God loved us first, but unless you know that, you can’t act on it. To live out a life of love effectively, you have to allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of love.
Now when was the last time you met a teenager who wanted to be controlled by anybody? They are just reaching the stage of life when they can finally do things for themselves, and now we’re telling them NOT to think of themselves, but others? No wonder they get confused, which of course, cranks up the drama even more, which throws them right back into the cycle of attention seeking about their confusion rather than helping them move forward with solutions.
Because God is love, if you are showing love, people see God through you. The sooner we teach our kids how to look outside themselves, the easier it will be for us to help them shape their worldview into a view that actually has some WORLD in it.
Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, or getting something that you don’t deserve.
One way that we can show grace to others is by simply giving them room to grow. This holds true for anybody, but especially for kids, since growing is their primary function.
It can be difficult for us as adults and parents to remember that kids are a work in progress. They aren’t where we are yet. They lack the life experience to have accumulated the wisdom that we have, and their pre-frontal cortices have not yet fully developed, which renders them inadequate to know what to do with the wisdom that they have acquired.
For this reason, I have often surmised that youth is wasted on the young. Why do they have all the energy with none of the wisdom? It seems that by the time we figure out what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, we’re too tired to do it!
Of course, we never really stop growing. Our bodies do, but our minds shouldn’t. There is always something new to learn, as long as we don’t shut ourselves off from new learning.
As a parent, I can testify that a lot of the learning I have done in recent years involves learning to BE a parent, which in a lot of ways, includes re-learning how to be a kid.
We forget, don’t we? We forget what it’s like to learn one thing and then think we know everything. We forget the days when we used to put paramount importance on what other people thought of us. We forget that we didn’t realize that the world actually didn’t revolve around us until somebody told us so, and even then, we had to be told more than once. For that matter, we forget that we had to be told pretty much everything more than once.
Most of all, we forget all too easily how much we depended upon the approval of our parents.
So teach your children gently. Just because they may act as if they know it all, you can’t assume that they know anything you haven’t told them. Or that you’ve told them only one time. Or that you’ve told them multiple times if there was anything in the room with a video screen on it.
And please practice giving your kids room to grow. They’re not going to get things right every time. However, if you don’t encourage them by letting them know that your love isn’t conditional upon their performance, then they’ll just stop trying. Mistakes are learning opportunities for them and teaching opportunities for you.
And when you teach, you also learn.